Yukon man pleads guilty to manslaughter for selling drugs to woman who fatally overdosed

The courthouse in Whitehorse. (Jackie Hong/CBC - image credit)
The courthouse in Whitehorse. (Jackie Hong/CBC - image credit)

A Yukon man has pleaded guilty to manslaughter for selling drugs to a woman who fatally overdosed on them.

Jared Skookum, 34, is the first drug dealer in the Yukon to face a manslaughter charge in relation to an overdose death. He initially pleaded not guilty after the charge was laid against him last year, but changed his plea in Whitehorse territorial court last week.

Stephanie Pye, a 36-year-old mother from Watson Lake, died in a Whitehorse hotel room after taking drugs she'd purchased from Skookum two years ago.

According to an agreed statement of facts filed in court, Skookum and Pye had partied together on March 21, 2022, during which they both overdosed on illicit drugs but survived.

Pye then visited Whitehorse about two weeks later for a dental appointment during which she texted Skookum for "down," which the document says is a "common street term for opioids."

Skookum sold her four "points" of down — or 0.4g —  for $200 around 10:30 p.m. outside the Yukon Inn.

Skookum texted Pye in the early hours of April 6, 2022, to "confirm that she was alive," the document continues, and she told him she "felt that the drugs… weren't very strong, as they hadn't done anything for her."

Skookum said he'd sold her "weaker stuff" as he was worried about her recent overdose, but also said he had a different batch called "purple man eater" that Pye was "immediately interested" in.

Pye met Skookum outside the Yukon Inn again just after 3:45 a.m. and bought two points of "purple man eater" for $100 before returning to her room.

Pye's daughter, who was staying with her at the hotel, discovered her unresponsive in the bathtub early that afternoon.

A forensic toxicology exam found fentanyl and etizolam — a depressant drug similar to Valium — in Pye's blood, as well as caffeine and tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. An autopsy performed on her body found "no signs of trauma or disease" that could otherwise explain her death, and a forensic pathologist concluded that she'd died from "acute combined fentanyl and etizolam intoxication."

"Ms. Pye died of a drug overdose," the agreement statement of facts says.

Skookum 'expressed remorse' for providing drugs to Pye

Police arrested Skookum on April 27, 2022, for trafficking drugs to Pye and in relation to the manslaughter investigation.

In an interview with an officer after his arrest, Skookum admitted to providing drugs to Pye and that "he skims some of the funds to put towards drugs for his own personal use."

"He expressed remorse for having provided drugs to Ms. Pye on April 6, 2022," the document says.

In court, Crown attorneys Kathryn Laurie and William McDiarmid along with defence lawyer Jennifer Cunningham said they would be advancing a joint sentencing proposal for Skookum — time served, followed by probation.

Skookum has spent the equivalent of about two years in jail awaiting trial.

Cunningham said that Skookum had completed courses and programming while incarcerated, and had the support of an elder, counsellor and a support worker from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon. She also noted that Skookum "had serious addiction issues with opioids" himself, and had overdosed multiple times.

Skookum will be formally sentenced in August, with the pause to allow victim and community impact statements to be completed.

While the Crown and defence both consented to Skookum being released on bail until then, with a plan containing several conditions approved by Judge Michael Cozens, Skookum was re-arrested this week and is currently in jail. He also faces a number of other charges in at least two other cases that haven't been resolved yet, including robbery, forcible confinement, assaulting a peace officer and bail breaches.