Sasha Cayen, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2017 death of 25-year-old Alexander Norwegian, won’t serve prison time for her role in the fatal robbery plot that shook the town of Hay River.
Sasha, 26, remained still, showing little emotion as Judge Robert Gorin sentenced her to three-years and seven-months.
With a credit of 1.5 days for every day spent in remand custody – she’s been in jail since Jan. 4 of last year – Sasha will have two years less a day left to serve, meaning she’ll be able to serve her term in the territory – not in a southern prison.
During sentencing submissions last week, Sasha’s lawyer, Scott Cowan, asked Gorin to consider a sentence that, with credit for remand custody, would bring his client’s term down to less than two years. Sentences of more than two years trigger prison terms.
Norwegian’s mother, Wanda, who detailed the “living nightmare” she’s experienced since her son’s death during the reading of an emotional victim impact statement last week, walked out of the Yellowknife courtroom as the sentence – five months less than the term proposed by prosecutors – was imposed.
Another teary-eyed family member joined her.
Gorin himself later appeared emotional as he summarized the case, and the impact the death has had on Norwegian’s family.
Sasha, 26, was charged alongside cousins Tyler Cayen, 33, Levi Cayen, 21 and James Thomas, 27, in early 2018 after Norwegian’s beaten, bloodied and frozen body was discovered on an isolated access road in Hay River on Dec. 28, 2017.
Norwegian died of hypothermia after being beaten and left to freeze to death following a robbery that occurred between Dec. 26 and Dec. 27, 2017. Blunt force trauma to Norwegian’s head contributed to his death.
Sasha, the court heard last week, played a key role in the robbery plot, hatched by Levi Cayen and James Thomas, that ultimately claimed Norwegian’s life.
Sasha arranged to meet Norwegian to buy crack cocaine from him on the Sandy Creek access road – but only Levi and Thomas went to meet Norwegian, bearing balaclavas and armed with a small baseball bat.
Sasha wasn’t present during the robbery, didn’t know Norwegian would be beaten and killed, and didn’t see the two men leave with a weapon, but she “absolutely played an integral role when she chose to send a text to set up Mr. Norwegian,” said Gorin as he handed down his sentence.
Gorin noted a degree of trust Norwegian held for Sasha – he’d called her for help earlier in the night when he stuck his car in a snowbank – was “exploited” by the offender.
He said the risk of serious bodily harm for Norwegian was foreseeable for Sasha – she knew he’d be alone, facing two men.
Gorin acknowledged Sasha’s concern that night when the two men hadn’t returned for over an hour. She texted Norwegian a number of times, with no reply.
But, said Gorin, Sasha made no attempt to get help for Norwegian. “I find she had a duty to do so,” he said.
Between the robbery and Sasha’s arrest, she continued to smoke crack cocaine and drink.
Turning to Sasha’s pre-sentence report – a look into an offender’s background prior to sentencing – Gorin said significant Gladue factors were absent – she grew up in a stable home – but noted her grandparents are both residential school survivors. Echoing prosecutor Jay Potter’s words, Gorin said there’s evidence of intergenerational or systemic trauma.
Based on the report, Gorin cited Sasha’s apparent “strong connection to the North,” as a Dene woman grew up in Hay River. In crafting a sentence that, with remand credit, imposes a jail term – not a prison sentence – Gorin said Sasha would be able to maintain that connection. Given her age, Gorin said there’s a promising prospect of rehabilitation.
Sasha will be on probation for three years following her release.
She’s barred from leaving NWT, must submit a DNA sample, and is prohibited from possessing weapons for 10 years. Sasha is ordered to complete 240 hours of community service during the first 18 months of probation – a condition that will see her give back to the community she “damaged,” said Gorin.
Tyler Cayen, who pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to manslaughter, was sentenced to two years less a day in NWT Supreme Court last week. The court heard Tyler helped Thomas burn clothing worn by Norwegian the night he was robbed and beaten.
Levi Cayen and James Thomas, both facing first-degree murder and robbery charges, are expected to go to trial in early 2020.
– with files from Meaghan Richens