Workers faced axe attack at secluded NWT lodge
Employees at a closed fly-in lodge were terrified when a new volunteer went berserk with an axe, chasing them into their cabin and chopping at the door and its frame.
A woman required medical treatment after the attack, which had earlier involved choking and assault, an NWT Territorial Court sentencing hearing was told on Thursday.
The incident happened in late September 2020, when there were no guests at the North Slave-region lodge due to the pandemic – just a skeleton crew of workers.
When the woman’s screams pierced the pre-dawn twilight, a man and woman left their cabin to help.
“They barged into the victim’s cabin,” Crown prosecutor Simon Hodge told the court. “The accused was on top of her with his hands on her neck.”
The cabin was trashed, Hodge said, and “broken glass was everywhere.”
The two workers pulled the woman away from her attacker and outside, heading toward their nearby quarters. They looked behind them to see the man – the woman’s boyfriend – coming after them, wielding an axe.
The trio got inside and slammed the solid wood, windowless door shut.
They tried to calm the man through the door, Hodge said, “but he began to chop at the cabin with the axe.”
The attack continued for about 15 minutes before the intoxicated man stopped, went back to his girlfriend’s cabin, and passed out.
RCMP were contacted but first had to charter a floatplane. Not knowing what to expect, five officers packed into the plane.
Upon arrival, they found the suspect asleep. He was arrested and flown back to Yellowknife.
The woman, who had “significant visible injuries,” needed medical treatment.
Hodge said she had endured a 20-minute unprovoked beating from her boyfriend. He hit her, bit her, and choked her several times to the point where she couldn’t breathe.
The woman had been working at the lodge as, even without guests, a handful of workers were needed to maintain buildings and prepare them for winter.
Her boyfriend volunteered to help at the lodge, affording him a chance to visit his girlfriend.
On September 28, the two had a day off and decided to drink wine and consume cannabis.
The woman woke at 6:30am to the sound of a dog barking and found her boyfriend in the room. She noticed a window was broken. She asked what happened and the attack began.
“He threatened to kill her, smashed glass on her head and threw a coffee mug against the wall,” Hodge said.
“She tried to run and get out … but the accused pulled her back and continued to attack her.”
Ian Horesay, 28, pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm by choking, assault with a weapon and failing to comply with a release order.
In exchange for the guilty plea, the Crown withdrew counts of uttering threats to kill, forcible confinement and breaking another court order.
Hodge said the guilty plea showed Horesay had accepted responsibility for his actions and saved the woman “the trauma and the time coming to testify.”
“This incident occurred in a secluded, remote location, which increased the danger to the public and to the victim,” he said, adding it happened in “an area that had limited and delayed access to medical and law enforcement facilities and services.”
The prosecutor said: “It must have been very terrifying.”
The woman chose not to provide an impact statement for the hearing.
The Crown and defence lawyer Mallorie Malone submitted a joint sentencing recommendation for Horesay to serve six months of house arrest with strict conditions – and few opportunities to leave his residence – to be followed by 12 months of supervised probation.
Included in the conditions are a weapons prohibition and a no-contact order with the woman. He cannot go back to the lodge.
Horesay must pay a $390 victim-of-crime surcharge for the court order breach.
Malone noted her client is of Dene descent, was raised in Yellowknife and has a Grade 12 education.
He found out when he was eight years old that he was adopted; the woman he thought was his mother was actually an aunt. His biological father was represented as being his uncle. His birth mother lived in Alberta.
His biological parents were not able to raise him, Malone said, as they had addictions issues.
Several of his older family members attended residential school.
Malone described her client as a hard worker who has taken steps to change his ways after the September 2020 incident. Those steps include on-the-land programming and counselling, including at the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre.
She said Horesay is “extremely remorseful” for his conduct at the lodge and has “sought to address the core issues that have brought him before the court and caused him to make those unfortunate choices on that day.”
Malone said allowing her client to serve his sentence in the community will allow him to find work and continue counselling.
Deputy Judge Vaughn Myers – a veteran jurist from Alberta, providing relief to the NWT court – accepted the joint recommendation.
“I don’t need to tell you how horrible this assault was, it’s terrible,” the judge said.
The woman, said Myers, “will probably bear these scars for the rest of her life.”
He told Horesay: “You can’t do anything about that but you’ve done what you can do, [you’re] now trying to give back to society what you can.”