Four Edmonton men will be sentenced in October for kidnapping and stabbing a street-level drug dealer who belonged to the Redd Alert gang.
Tyler Fischer, Cougar Fafard, Skylar McGilvery and his brother Sterling McGilvery were all initially charged with first-degree murder, after the remains of Kevin Yellowbird were found in 2017.
Yellowbird had been stabbed 10 times in the back. But Crown prosecutor Lawrence Van Dyke admitted in the Court of Queen's Bench in Edmonton Wednesday that they have no way of knowing who did it.
"If we could prove who stabbed him, that person would have been charged with murder," Van Dyke said.
"Mr. Yellowbird was brutally killed."
In September 2017, Yellowbird was assaulted, then driven to a rural location north of Edmonton. Four men who were in the SUV ordered him out of the vehicle.
Yellowbird's decomposed remains were found in a ditch a month later.
The four accused pleaded guilty to manslaughter three months ago.
Van Dyke is asking Justice Adam Germain to sentence each man to 10 years in prison for the killing, with reductions for time already served.
The suggested sentence proposal takes into consideration the very difficult upbringings the men have suffered along with their lengthy criminal records, he said.
All four defence lawyers suggested a sentence of eight years for their respective clients.
'Poster child for Gladue factors'
The court ordered a presentence report for Fischer and Gladue reports for the other three men.
Gladue reports delve into an Indigenous offender's background and systemic factors in order to assist a sentencing judge.
"My client could be described as the poster child for Gladue factors," defence lawyer Anwar Jarrah told the judge about Sterling McGilvery.
"Sterling had no choice in life. He was not born with a silver spoon."
Sterling McGilvery, 28, admitted to the Gladue report author that he had been a member of Redd Alert.
"Over the years he has witnessed drug dealing, assaults, robberies and says that way of life was pretty much normalized for him," the report states. "Sterling explained his gang involvement started young. By the age of 12 he was selling crack cocaine and pills."
The man has been clean and sober since he was arrested for Yellowbird's death in February 2018, his lawyer said.
"I do take responsibility for my actions," Sterling McGilvery told the judge.
Sterling's younger brother Skylar, 25, was placed in the child welfare system when he was five years old because his mother was unable to care for him due to drug addiction issues.
He has a criminal record that includes 64 criminal convictions, has never been employed and has no source of income.
Cougar Fafard, 27, told the Gladue report author that he eventually became gang-affiliated to survive while he was living on the streets and selling drugs with his mother.
Fafard was physically, emotionally and sexually abused growing up. He and his mother began doing drugs together when he was 13 years old. His biological father was murdered when he was just two years old.
"Cougar states although he wanted a mother-son relationship, he never had that with his mother," the report notes.
Tyler Fischer, 34, is the oldest in the group of four. He's married and has been free on bail since August 2019, so he will not get any pretrial credit in sentencing.
He is drug-free and has started his own roofing company, he said. Fischer's lawyer called it "remarkable rehabilitation."
When he was given a chance to address the court, Fischer said he felt remorseful.
"That was back in my drug addiction days," Fischer said. "I feel very sad for what happened."
Fischer is allowed to remain free on bail until the judge hands down his sentencing decision on Oc. 7. The other three offenders remain in custody at the Edmonton Remand Centre.