A Pond Inlet man who was accused of murdering 43-year-old Charlie Angnetsiak in September 2014, walked away a free man on Thursday.
In court in Iqaluit, Crown prosecutors informed Justice Sue Cooper they no longer had a reasonable prospect of convicting Jeffrey Killiktee and stayed the second-degree murder charge against the 27-year-old.
The development comes less than a month before a four-week trial was set to start. The Crown's case hinged largely on the testimony from a single witness.
But prosecutors told the court on Thursday they had recently spoken to their witness in preparation for the trial, and suddenly had concerns about his reliability.
"This witness has provided information to the Crown that makes us question the reliability of his previous statements to the RCMP as well as the evidence he provided at the preliminary hearing," prosecutor Abel Dion told Justice Cooper.
"Given the new information provided by this critical witness, the Crown no longer holds a reasonable prospect of conviction."
The murder charge stemmed from a 2014 house party in Pond Inlet, where Angnetsiak was found dead the next morning. Soon after, Killiktee was arrested and charged. He has been in jail awaiting trial ever since.
Killiktee's lawyer, Alison Crowe, said there were concerns with the Crown's star witness from the beginning.
"Right off the bat he admitted he was blackout drunk," Crowe told CBC News. "It was a party, so a lot of people were there at different times."
During the preliminary inquiry, Killiktee's defence had also raised the possibility of a second suspect. That person has since died.
Preliminary inquiry has merits, Crowe says
Crowe also said without the preliminary inquiry, Killiktee likely wouldn't have walked away a free man.
Her comments come in the wake of controversial efforts in Manitoba and Ontario to get rid of preliminary inquiries to alleviate court backlogs and ensure an accused's right to a speedy trial.
"They say the Crown gives disclosure. That's written statements from witnesses. But statements don't equal what a witness will say in live time, and they don't reflect what cross-examination might reveal," Crowe said.
"Just on the basis of statements, the Crown would have not discontinued these proceedings. [They did], because they had a chance to look at the strength of their own witnesses."