Edmonton teen sentenced in stabbing death of 13-year-old girl

·5 min read
Sierra Chalifoux-Thompson, 13, died in October 2020 after police were called to an assault in the area of 75th Street and Mount Lawn Road in the Eastwood neighbourhood. (Sierra Chalifoux/Facebook - image credit)
Sierra Chalifoux-Thompson, 13, died in October 2020 after police were called to an assault in the area of 75th Street and Mount Lawn Road in the Eastwood neighbourhood. (Sierra Chalifoux/Facebook - image credit)

A teenage girl who fatally stabbed another teen on a northeast Edmonton street will serve another year in custody, followed by 18 months under court supervision.

The 16-year-old, who can't be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was sentenced Friday in the Alberta Court of Justice for the manslaughter death of 13-year-old Sierra Chalifoux-Thompson in October 2020.

Sierra died in hospital from a stab wound to the abdomen. The girl who stabbed her had been using alcohol and meth on the night of the assault.

Originally charged with second-degree murder, the accused pleaded guilty in October 2022 to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

She was sentenced under the Intensive Rehabilitative Custody and Supervision (IRCS) program, which is available only to young offenders who have been convicted of a violent crime and have a diagnosis of some type of mental health issue.

The girl will spend 12 months in custody at Alberta Hospital Edmonton followed by 18 months of conditional supervision under the program, which focuses on intensive therapy, rehabilitation and reintegration training.

In accepting a joint submission on sentencing from the Crown and defence, Justice Michael Savaryn said no sentence can make up for the loss of a life and the suffering of Sierra's family.

Savaryn said the sentence is fitting for the 16-year-old, who has shown "extreme remorse" for the horrifying nature of her crimes and a deep commitment to rehabilitation.

"This is a tragedy," he said. "Absolutely heartbreaking and horrifying.

"With this IRCS sentence, there is hope for this young person and her rehabilitation."

Savaryn also noted that the girl was young and impaired on drugs on alcohol when she committed the crime. She has several medical conditions and felt "immediately shocked" by what she had done, the judge said.

"This sentence is appropriate," he said. "It is the maximum."

Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, young offenders convicted of manslaughter can't serve more than three years in custody.

The 16-year-old was given credit for six months out of the roughly eight months she has served in custody. She will remain at the Edmonton Young Offender Centre for three more weeks to complete her Grade 10 education before she is transferred to hospital.

She must also submit DNA samples and was issued a two-year weapons ban. All exhibits related to the case will be released to medical and probation workers managing her sentence.

Outside the courthouse, Sierra's mother said the family felt gutted by the sentence and failed by the justice system.

The sentence makes it feel like her daughter's life had no value, and that her killing was "swept under the rug," Angela Chalifoux said with tears rolling down her cheeks.

"Her life was taken. I'm never going to see Sierra grow up or anything, and she just gets to just get to be out in a year.

"They failed us, they failed us terribly."

Dispute was over a boy

Sierra was stabbed near 75th Street and Mount Lawn Road in the Eastwood neighbourhood.

According to an agreed statement of facts, the dispute was over a boy Sierra had started dating soon after he and the accused broke up.

On the night of the assault, the offender and two friends were drinking vodka and using meth.

The girl told the boy and Sierra to meet her at the Sands Hotel and the group began walking toward the Northlands Coliseum. Members of the group taunted Sierra and when one of them began playing with a baton, Sierra pulled out her phone.

The girl believed Sierra was "calling backup" and ask what she was doing. When Sierra responded that it was "none of her business," the girl stabbed her.

"[The girl] stared at Sierra and saw a look of fear on Sierra's face … shocked by her own actions…and ultimately ran away."

Sierra, a member of Kapawe'No First Nation near High Prairie, Alta., died in hospital hours later.

Her killer spent the next night and day admitting to the crime on social media before turning herself in to police.

'You stole our joy'

Court-ordered assessments of the accused found mitigating factors in her personal and medical history, including fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, anxiety and various learning disorders.

A Gladue report, detailing her Indigenous background and personal history, described a family history of addiction, abuse and incarceration.

On Friday, as she sat in the prisoner's box occasionally glancing over to her relatives in the gallery, her apology to Sierra's family was read into the court record.

She said she remains haunted by the life she took.

"From the bottom of my heart, I am so sorry ... I cannot imagine the loss I've caused."

Sierra's grandmother, Catherine Chalifoux, read a family victim impact statement in court. Chalifoux was wearing a ribbon skirt she sewed in Sierra's memory.

She described the agony of losing her beloved "Cece" to a senseless stab wound and said young offenders who commit violent crimes should face tougher sentences.

Then she addressed the girl in the prisoner's box.

"My girl would not wish anything bad on you … but I'm not Sierra," she said through tears. "I hate what you did to our family.

"I hope you feel the pain that we do. You stole our joy."

Trevor Wilson/CBC
Trevor Wilson/CBC