A central Alberta man who shot and killed a Sunchild First Nation father in December 2020 in a dispute over a missing cellphone was sentenced to seven years in prison on Monday.
Red Deer Court of King’s Bench Justice Richard Neufeld accepted a joint sentencing submission from the Crown prosecutor and the defence lawyer for Keean Frencheater, 26, of Sunchild First Nation.
An agreed statement of facts said Frencheater and three others drove to the home of Jason Lagrelle, 39, sometime around 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 6, 2020. They went there because one of those in the group believed Lagrelle’s daughter had stolen his cell phone earlier in the evening.
Lagrelle told them they did not have his cellphone and when a man and woman tried to push their way into his home Lagrelle resisted and pushed back.
Frencheater was sitting in the driver’s seat of his car about three to five metres from Lagrelle at the front door of his home. Frencheater fired two shots from an assault rifle through the open window of the passenger side of his vehicle.
One bullet hit Lagrelle in the head and he dropped to the ground. The other hit the door frame.
Frencheater and two others fled in his vehicle. The man who had been looking for his cell phone ran off into nearby bushes.
RCMP located Frencheater’s abandoned Dodge Avenger about 9:30 a.m. that morning and traced footprints to a nearby residence, where Frencheater had barricaded himself in an attic. RCMP called in the Emergency Response Team and Frencheater later gave himself up.
He was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter last May about a month before his three-week trial was to begin.
Crown prosecutor Greg Gordon read a victim impact statement from Lagrelle’s sister in court.
“His heart was full of love for his family,” she wrote. “My heart is so broken as well as my family’s.”
Frencheater apologized to the Lagrelle family.
“I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t mean to do that to the family. I didn’t plan for it to happen.”
Neufeld said Lagrelle’s killing was “brutal, senseless and horrific.” He noted Lagrelle’s daughter was standing next to him when he was shot and his wife and two 13-year-old sons were in the home nearby.
Frencheater had a troubled childhood witnessing family violence and suffering abuse himself. His drug problem began with marijuana when he was 10 years old, progressing to alcohol by 14 and meth by 17.
At the time of the shooting, he had been abusing alcohol for weeks, hadn’t slept for days and was taking Gabbies, the street name for Gabapentin, a drug some use to enhance the high from opioids.
Born to an Indigenous father and a Caucasian mother he was discriminated against wherever he went, said the judge.
In accepting the joint sentencing recommendation, Neufeld said he accepted that Frencheater’s remorse was genuine, had no prior criminal record, was now drug- and alcohol-free and had been upgrading his education in prison.
The judge gave Frencheater credit for 1,545 days in custody using a formula of 1.5 days per day served, leaving him with 1,010 days to serve. He was given a lifetime firearms prohibition and must provide a sample of his DNA to a national database.