Alexander Norwegian’s family say the NWT’s justice system has yet to denounce his killing, a death that shook the community of Hay River in 2017.
On the second day of a planned week-long sentencing hearing for Levi Cayen, found guilty of manslaughter in Alex’s brutal robbery and death, 14 victim impact statements were read into the record.
“My son knew what he was doing was wrong and it’s not what he wanted,” said Wanda Norwegian of her son, who dealt drugs in the South Slave community. She sobbed as she spoke and was unable to stand as she read her statement.
“We were so close to having him out of that world. But those monsters took that away,” she said.
“I am so afraid that my son will be just another headline in the news. A light sentence would do no justice.”
Wanda said Cayen seemed to her to have “no remorse” during his appearances in court. She and other relatives have attended every hearing.
Lured to a remote road on the Kátł’odeeche First Nation reserve, Alex Norwegian was robbed, beaten and left to die. During Cayen’s trial, a medical examiner testified Norwegian had ultimately died from hypothermia.
“He did not ask to be murdered, nor did he deserve it. We all make poor choices and he wasn’t given the time to straighten up,” read a statement from his former girlfriend, Felicia Marshall, describing Alex as kind, sweet, athletic and adventurous.
“We had talked extensively about what had brought him into [that] lifestyle and why he felt he needed to make his family and friends proud by beating it,” Marshall stated.
“Society may look at his death as inconsequential because of what he may have done in life. But he was so much more than just his choices. I know he was ready to leave it behind.”
Elsie Bouvier, Alex’s grandmother, stated: “Our entire family is hurting. It’s so difficult to try to talk to each other about what happened. As a grandmother I want to take all their pain, sadness and sorrow away.
“I am unable to understand what humans are capable of doing to someone else. What has happened to our people?”
‘Breathing, but not living’
Cayen was initially charged with first-degree murder in the 25-year-old Norwegian’s death. In March, a jury found him guilty instead of manslaughter, a lesser charge. He also pleaded guilty to robbery at the start of the trial in February.
Cayen was the last of four cousins charged over Norwegian’s death to be convicted.
Sasha Cayen, 26, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 43 months; Tyler Cayen, 33, admitted being an accessory after the fact to manslaughter and was sentenced to two years less a day;
James Thomas was convicted of second-degree murder and robbery and received a 10-year sentence last year.
“Two of the four people charged with his death are walking free right now. Imagine how that feels for [his] family, to have to see them out and about, living their lives?” stated Jennifer Norwegian, Alex’s stepmother, in a statement read into the record by Crown prosecutor Duane Praught.
“Alex doesn’t get to be with his friends. He doesn’t get a chance to live his life.”
Annie Steen, Alex’s aunt and godmother, stated the sentences handed to Sasha and Tyler Cayen “left us in disbelief,” and the manslaughter verdict against Levi Cayen was not fitting.
“I don’t believe that justice was served with the [manslaughter] verdict given to Levi Cayen,” Steen’s statement read.
“Both Levi and James Thomas not only killed my nephew and godson Alexander, they killed my sister, too. She may be breathing, but she’s not living. That’s even more of an atrocity.”
Prosecutor Praught argued deterrence and denunciation are key to determining a fit sentence for Levi Cayen. Praught believes Cayen should be sentenced to 10 years for robbery and 15 years for manslaughter, to be served concurrently.
Praught is also trying to reduce the multiplier prisoners on remand can receive – a calculation whereby people convicted of crimes often have their pre-sentencing stays in custody deducted from their sentence, usually at a rate of 1.5 days deducted for every day held.
The prosecutor said Cayen’s behaviour was “not consistently appropriate during remand” and he had “received violations at North Slave Correctional Complex.”
Among the incidents for which Cayen was disciplined while behind bars was a scheme that involved a drone delivering contraband items into the facility.
Over more than four years, Cayen has amassed 1,593 days of remained time. If given full credit for those days with the 1.5 multiplier, that would equal six and a half years to be subtracted from his eventual sentence, giving Cayen just over eight years to serve.
“Alexander Norwegian died an awful death,” said Praught. “But as your honour has heard here today, he is not the only victim of Levi Cayen.
“The family and friends of Alexander Norwegian will forever live with the knowledge of the pain, suffering and indignity their loved one endured during his final moments. They will forever live with that. Levi Cayen did that.
“For what? Kicks, thrills, adventure? Anger? Or for the chance to score money and some drugs?”
Earlier in the day, defence lawyer Alan Regel called two witnesses to offer glimpses into Cayen’s life.
His mother, Wendy Ross, said she grew up in a home filled with alcohol problems – her parents were residential school survivors – and she received no life skills to help her as she started her own family.
She said Levi grew up in a home where she and her partner drank but they are now sober, as are her parents.
“As a parent, were you able to provide Levi with the skills he would need to deal with adversity in life?” asked the lawyer.
“No, not much,” came her reply.
The sentencing hearing continues on Wednesday afternoon.