Warning: This story contains disturbing details.
An N.W.T. judge has found Wilfred Abraham guilty of manslaughter in the death of 48-year-old Ralph Sifton.
Supreme Court Justice Andrew Mahar delivered his verdict Thursday in a Yellowknife courtroom, saying the night of Aug. 18, 2018 was "yet another tragic event" springing from addiction and trauma, resulting in the death of Abraham's relative, and "someone he cares about."
Abraham, 56, appeared in person, sitting beside his lawyer. Sifton's family listened to the proceeding by phone as Mahar delivered his decision. At the end of the sentencing, there was audible emotion from relatives listening into the proceeding.
Although prosecutors rejected Abraham's guilty plea for manslaughter at the start of the trial, Mahar ultimately decided Abraham's actions did not meet the test of second-degree murder.
Before his guilty verdict, Mahar laid out the disturbing details of what led to his decision that Abraham committed manslaughter.
No intent to kill, says judge
It started when Sifton kicked Abraham in the face with a steel-toed boot while he lay on a couch.
An "enraged" Abraham briefly left to retrieve his shoes from a shelter, then returned to fight Sifton on the lawn of a Warbler Cres. home.
Abraham was still "tremendously agitated and provoked" as he attacked Sifton with a five-pound dumbbell before attacking him with his hands, Mahar said.
Witnesses reported Abraham repeatedly told Sifton, who was likely unconscious, to get back up to continue the fight, Mahar said.
One witness reported that Abraham screamed this over 100 times. The judge said this indicated Abraham did not appreciate the extent of Sifton's injuries and did not intend to kill him.
By the time Sifton was picked up by ambulance, he had no pulse. He had extensive injuries from the beating, including fractures to his face and skull.
Mahar decided that the five pound weight that delivered the fatal blow was not substantially more threatening than a steel-toed boot.
Mahar added that Abraham was highly intoxicated throughout the day including when he gave his statement to police.
Before being sentenced, the court must still produce a Gladue report, which recognizes that systemic racism and discrimination has resulted in a crisis of overrepresentation of Indigenous people in prison.
The report influences the type of sentence a person will be given. The court will convene on Nov. 30 to decide on a sentencing date.