Crown seeks minimum 3-year prison term for drug dealer convicted in teen's death

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Richard Valiquette sentenced to 3 years for drug-related death of Saint John teen

The Crown is seeking a minimum three-year prison term for a Saint John man convicted of criminal negligence in the drug-related death of a teenager in 2013.

Richard Valiquette, 28, was found guilty of the charge stemming from the death of Gavin Adams, whose body was found partly buried in snow on Dec. 16, 2013, two days after witnesses placed the 17-year-old in Valiquette's apartment.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Frederick Ferguson will sentence Valiquette on May 16, but he heard submissions from the Crown and defence, 13 victim impact statements and remarks from Valiquette during a sentencing hearing in Saint John on Wednesday.

Gavin's younger sister, Elspeth, who was the last one to see him alive, wrote, "What if I had done things different?"

His mother, Sonja Adams, said she also wonders what she could have done to protect him.

"How desperately I miss him," she wrote in the statement read aloud by the Crown. "He had so much potential. It crushes me."

Snowy, cold days are the worst for her, she said.

"They bring back images of Gavin's body frozen in the snow. My body aches."

'I feel terribly'

Valiquette, who has remained free pending sentencing, told the court Gavin was "a really good friend."

He felt "very close" to Gavin; a "kinship," a "like-mindedness," he said.

"I feel terrible about what happened," Valiquette said. "I feel terribly. I guess that's all I have to say."

Defence lawyer Brian Ferguson told the court Valiquette is an excellent candidate for rehabilitation. He has ceased using all drugs, has no prior criminal record and is employed, Ferguson said.

Valiquette showed remorse, co-operated with investigation, has a supportive family and is not a danger to the public, added co-defence lawyer Wes McIntosh.

But pros​ecutor Jill Knee argued the court needs to send a message that such actions will not be tolerated. The Crown is seeking a prison term of at least three years for Valiquette, she said.

Valiquette pleaded guilty in a trial last October to producing the DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine), a hallucinogenic drug.

His trial on the criminal negligence charge heard Gavin and a friend went to Valiquette's apartment on Dec. 14, 2013, and each bought and ingested four tabs of 25i NBOME, which is a highly potent LSD-like drug.

Gavin's blood tested positive for 25i after his body was found.

Maximum sentence is life

Justice Ferguson found Valiquette guilty in February of criminal negligence causing Gavin's death by giving him a substance unfit for human consumption, with reckless disregard for the Saint John High School student's safety.

"We have not lost sight of the humanity in this case," he said on Wednesday, for you [Gavin's family], or Mr. Valiquette."

Ferguson said he has about 80 per cent of his sentencing decision written, but wanted more time to review the material before imposing sentence.

The offence carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Outside the courthouse, Gavin's father, David Adams, said he expects Ferguson's decision will be "very thorough" and hopes the sentence will "help deter this kind of activity from getting worse or hopefully can protect children in the future."

"It has to be a message that this is very serious in our community, it's taking our children's lives away daily and it's something that we have to grapple with as a society and come to terms with," Adams said.

His wife agreed. "I think the community has to feel secure too with the decision that's made."

"People are fearful for their children, so with a good deterrent, I think that will help the community as well."

Asked what length of sentence she thought would be a good deterrent, she replied, "I can't say."