Man sentenced for manslaughter death

·4 min read

A B.C. Supreme Court Justice sentenced a Prince George man Wednesday to a further three years and seven months in prison for a "brutal and senseless" stabbing death slightly more than three years ago.

The term was at the bottom end of the range Crown and defence counsels had presented to Justice Ron Tindale for Christopher Clarke Prince, 39, for the May 20, 2017 death of Shane Whitford. Crown had been seeking as much as a further five years and seven months.

Originally charged with second-degree murder, Prince eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter, which implies he did not intend to kill Whitford but knew his actions risked the possibility.

Tindale described the act as a "near murder" but, in part, took into account Prince's mental health issues - a long list was cited in a report from a forensic psychiatrist - and low intelligence in assessing his moral culpability.

During the early morning of the day in question, Prince and Whitford had gotten into an argument that escalated into a fist fight at a 2100-block Oak Street home, apparently over Jessica West, who had become Prince's girlfriend after breaking up with Whitford.

For reasons not explained, the trio plus another woman left the home but not before West had taken a large kitchen knife and hid it up her sleeve.

They made their way to a front lawn of a 1300-block Porter Avenue home. By that time, the second woman had been warded off by a knife-wielding West, who, in turn, "lost control of the knife" - a witness told police he saw a man wrest the knife from a woman and shove her to the ground.

Two passersby who had heard some cries and went to investigate, came across Prince with a knife in his hand, standing over a down and bleeding Whitford, the court had also heard.

With their help, police tracked down and arrested Prince. By that time, he had disposed of the knife and a T-shirt he was wearing but his face and torso were covered in blood.

Whitford, a father of two children, suffered 21 stab wounds and later died in hospital, while West was stabbed twice in a leg. Prince took responsibility for killing Whitford and for stabbing West, but has maintained he was not responsible for all of Whitford's wounds.

Defence lawyer Tony Zipp also maintained during submissions on sentencing on Tuesday that the altercation between Prince and Whitford was little more than a "punching and shouting match" until West "introduced a knife into the fracas."

"The accused committed a brutal and senseless crime," Tindale said and went on to itemize the many injuries Whitford suffered in the attack and the impact his death has had on his family.

It was the second time that Prince has been sentenced for manslaughter, Tindale also noted.

In 2007, he was sentenced to three more years in prison for the November 2002 death of a half-brother, Reginald Travis Prince, 20, in Fort St. James. The victim had suffered a single hammer blow to his head while sleeping.

Before the attack, Prince had been ruminating for days over comments he believed he heard from the victim about his sexual conquests, including his girlfriend, court heard during the trial.

Like in the most-recent incident, Prince was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

That Prince has a previous conviction for manslaughter was "of great concern" said Tindale, but also noted Prince has expressed a willingness to address underlying issues.

The court has heard that Prince has had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse but, due to his underlying mental health issues and low intelligence, has not been able to get control of his addictions and his impulses.

Referring to an assessment from a forensic psychiatrist, Tindale said Prince is a "dangerous person who needs supervision and structure."

In total, Prince, who has remained in custody since he was arrested on the day of Whitford's death, was sentenced to 10 years less credit for time served prior to sentencing, one year more than the total term he received for his previous conviction for manslaughter.

During submissions on Tuesday, Zipp said Prince willingly served the entire sentence for his previous conviction behind bars.

Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen

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