Fort Smith murder suspect, 17, makes court appearance
A Fort Smith teenager charged in connection with a March homicide and weapons offences made a short appearance in NWT Youth Court on Monday morning.
Crown prosecutor Duane Praught confirmed charges against the 17-year old include second-degree murder, two counts of stealing firearms during a burglary, and reckless discharge of a firearm.
The incidents in question resulted in a town-wide lockdown and three-day police operation early last month.
The 50-year-old who passed away in a shooting early on March 4 has not been publicly identified.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act severely restricts the information that can be made public in such cases, including the identity of the offender.
After an investigation that lasted for more than a month, RCMP last Thursday announced a youth had been charged with murder in connection with the death.
When originally arrested on the afternoon of Sunday, March 6, the youth was charged only in connection with a series of break-and-enters beginning in the early hours of March 4, in which guns were stolen.
A vehicle was also reportedly stolen, though the youth’s current charges do not reflect that.
Exactly when and where the shooting took place has not been confirmed.
Expert opinions sought
The teenager appeared by video on Monday from the youth facility at Yellowknife’s North Slave Correctional Complex. Defence lawyer Alyssa Peeler told the court she had received no information from the Crown about its evidence against the 17-year-old.
Peeler told Judge Donovan Molloy her client was “obviously very anxious to move this matter along and to understand the reasons underlying these charges.”
“I would expect so,” said the judge. “Mr Praught, when do you expect you will be able to provide meaningful disclosure?”
“We’re hoping to get disclosure to Miss Peeler by the end of the week,” Praught said, noting he is waiting to receive some opinions from outside experts.
If seeking an adult sentence, should a murder conviction eventually be secured, the Crown must normally make that known prior to the teen entering a plea on that charge.
The teen also faces charges from an apparently unrelated incident in late February. However, his lawyer said he was not prepared to enter a plea on Monday morning on the one count of assault with a weapon.
His next court appearance is scheduled for mid-May.
In an unusual move, the 17-year-old’s identity and photograph were made public during the police search in early March “as a matter of public safety,” given RCMP’s suspicion that he had stolen firearms.
After his arrest, his name and image were removed from earlier reporting.
Following the town’s three-day ordeal, the territory’s health authority offered mental health and community counselling services for residents.