Family and friends of a young Sunchild First Nation woman who was stabbed to death expressed frustration and dismay Wednesday after her killer’s sentencing was delayed until January.
More than two dozen supporters of Samantha Sharpe, including her parents and siblings, came to Red Deer provincial court to see Chelsey Lagrelle sentenced for stabbing Sharpe to death at a home on the reserve in the early hours of Dec. 12, 2018.
However, sentencing was adjourned until Jan. 15 because the Crown prosecutor’s office did not have time to review and respond to written sentencing submissions filed by Lagrelle’s defence team.
Crown prosecutor Ed Ring said outside court it had been initially expected that only oral submissions would be made to Judge Jim Hunter, but then defence lawyer Alain Hepner notified the Crown on Sept. 4 that written submissions were coming. Those were received last Friday.
“They were extremely voluminous,” said Ring, who said more time was needed to review them.
The earliest date the Crown, defence and the judge were available was Jan. 15, which was set as the new sentencing date.
“We recognize, certainly, it’s difficult for Ms. Sharpe’s family and Ms. Lagrelle’s,” he said. “We were certainly hopeful to have this completed.
“However, the defence have the right to cast their argument as they see fit.”
Sharpe’s family were disheartened and angered by yet another delay in a case that has left them on an emotional roller-coaster.
Her father, Neil Sharpe, said he feels the justice system is letting his daughter and the family down.
“It just seems like with our justice system, we’re trying to be too easy on the perpetrator of the crime,” said Sharpe.
Samantha’s mother, Priscilla Sharpe, feels the same way: “It’s all about Chelsey and not about Samantha.”
The family also feels that their daughter, who was not a heavy drinker, has been unfairly depicted as being part of a drunken brawl that ended with her stabbing death.
Samantha, who was 25, is remembered by those who knew her as being loved by many.
She almost lost her life in a vehicle crash when she was 23 that left her burned and facing many months of rehabilitation. An animal lover, she was committed to rescuing and caring for abandoned dogs.
The legal journey to hold her killer responsible has been an agonizing one for her family.
Lagrelle was first charged with manslaughter, which after review by Crown prosecutors, was upgraded to second-degree murder, only for it to be reduced later to manslaughter again.
In the meantime, an assault charge stemming from the same incident related to the wounding of Lagrelle’s brother was dropped.
The family faced more frustration when Lagrelle’s guilty plea in December 2019 had to be repeated again in January because of a legal hitch. Sentencing set for March was adjourned for six months because of the pandemic.
Crown prosecutor Ring came outside the courthouse to speak to about two dozen of Samantha’s supporters to explain the delay and to take their questions.
Ring said the Crown and defence had considered going ahead with oral submissions on Wednesday, but given the amount of written material submitted by the defence, it was decided that was not appropriate.
Prosecutors are aware of the emotional toll another delay will have on the victim’s friends and family, he said.
“I really wish I had better news,” he told them. “Every time we meet, I convey bad news to you, and I wish that was different.
“A lot of people have come a long way to be here for this today.”
A full day has been set aside on Jan. 15 for the Crown and defence to make their submissions and to hear victim impact statements.
Ring warned the crowd that it is possible there could be another delay. “As in any case, there could always be another adjournment.”