A Port Hardy teenager was too drunk to form the intent for murder according to a B.C. Supreme Court judge who found him guilty of a lesser charge on Monday in Campbell River.
“I find you guilty of manslaughter,” said Justice Miriam Maisonville.
Dakota Johnny was 19 years old when he bludgeoned Cindy Scow with a wooden dowling inside a dark and abandoned house on the Tsulquate First Nation Reserve on Sept. 9, 2012.
The 28-year-old mother of seven young children was found by friends and relatives dying on the floor of a blood-splattered bedroom inside house #155. She was wearing nothing but a T-shirt and was covered in blood.
After hearing the case earlier this year, Justice Maisonville took just over a month to hand down her verdict.
She rejected defence arguments that Johnny acted in self-defence or may have been provoked after Scow allegedly bit his genitals. However, she couldn’t ignore the evidence of several witnesses who said Johnny was intoxicated at the time of the fatal assault.
He had been drinking for a few days prior to his meeting with Scow and on the day of her death he had consumed beer, wine, hard liquor and marijuana.
The drinking began at a house party and by mid-day Johnny appeared intoxicated. When the group got kicked out, the party continued at another home and when they left there, a few people gathered outside the band office and across the street from house #155.
That night, a witness saw Johnny and Scow huddled together by the band office sharing a bottle of liquor. There was just the two of them and they appeared to be enjoying each other’s company.
Sometime around 11 p.m., they went inside the abandoned home and then things went terribly wrong.
Crown prosecutor David Fitzsimmons called a variety of experts who pieced together, what they could, of the savage beating that took place inside the room.
Blood splatter from Scow was found on the walls and ceiling, and pooled in the old carpeting where she finally collapsed. She had suffered at least six blows to the head with a wooden dowling that was found broken in two. She had also suffered several blows to her body.
The cause of death was blunt force trauma to her brain and she was also found with a significant blood/alcohol level.
After the beating, Johnny fled the scene, but told several people he had assaulted Scow and didn’t think she would live.
Several people ran to Scow’s aid, but there was nothing they could do. Police and ambulance paramedics arrived shortly later, and Scow was rushed to hospital in Port Hardy where she died before they could airlift her to Vancouver.
Johnny was found by RCMP at his father’s house. His shirt, jeans and shoes all had blood on them; some of it his, the rest was Scow’s according to DNA evidence.
He was arrested without incident and charged with aggravated assault. The charges were later changed to second degree murder after Scow died.
As he was being led away, Johnny twice asked the officer how much jail time he could expect.
“What do you think the years are going to be if you guys find out it was me? Probably like 28?” Johnny asked the officer, “…if you get a confession, how long am I going to be in for? I’m guessing a good 25 to 40 years, right?”
At the Port Hardy RCMP detachment, Johnny would later remark, “It’s like the first bad thing I ever did.”
Johnny was later released on bail and has continued living on the Tsulquate Reserve. Scow’s mother, Blanche Walkus, said it’s been difficult for her family to see Johnny “walk around free” and it was even harder to comprehend Monday’s verdict.
“It’s not what we expected…every day I have to pass the house where he murdered her,” she said outside the courtroom, flanked by her husband Clyde and son Wes.
Cindy Scow was one of nine children and gave birth to seven of her own. The kids, ages three to 12, now live with their father.
“She really loved those kids,” recalled Walkus. “She did everything for them, especially on their birthdays, she went all out for them.”
Johnny remains free on bail with sentencing pending. He will be the subject of a Gladue Report, which will consider his aboriginal background prior to sentencing.
He is due back in court on Oct. 1 with sentencing expected to take place on Oct. 2.