A 49-year-old man who sent two people to hospital with serious head injuries following a “vicious” axe attack in Fort Good Hope last year received a five-year prison sentence Thursday.
In a “fit of uncontrolled rage,” Christopher Shae used the blunt end of an axe to strike his two victims — a man and a woman — in the head on the night of Sept. 15, 2018, said prosecutor Jill Andrews.
Both victims were flown to Yellowknife’s Stanton Territorial Hospital for medical treatment. The male sustained a fractured skull. Shae pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. He’s been in custody since his arrest shortly after the assault.
Neither of his victims remember the attack — an assault that didn’t result in death “only by pure luck,” said Andrews.
Shae, who was virtually homelessness at the time, carried out the attack after waking to see his two snow machines engulfed in flames.
Shae believed the male victim was responsible for setting the fire. His lawyer, Robin Parker, said the machines “represented hope for the future,” for her impoverished client — who planned to end his hunger by using them to trap and hunt in the summer.
Shae, the court heard, picked up two axes and walked to the victims’ yard, perpetrating the violent attack, which only stopped when a bystander, brandishing a stick, intervened.
Shae left the scene, allegedly telling a witness he had “just taken two souls.” He was intoxicated and has no memory of the brutal assault, said Parker.
Shae has a lengthy criminal record. He’s been convicted of 36 offences since 1989, committing over a dozen violent crimes, including assault with a weapon and sexual assault, a record that shows a “continued pattern of violent behaviour spanning almost 30 years,” said Andrews.
At the time of the attack, Shae was on probation from a 2017 conviction. He was subject to a lifetime firearms and weapons ban.
NWT Supreme Court Justice Andrew Mahar, who called Shae’s criminal record “cause for grave concern,” accepted a joint sentencing recommendation of five years from the Crown and the defence.
Mahar said Shae’s actions were vicious and frightening, adding the crime would be even more egregious if it had not been committed in the context of the offender, hungry and homeless, losing the property that held so much promise to him.
‘Poverty, neglect and hunger’
Both Shae’s parents were residential school survivors who struggled with extreme alcohol addiction, a problem the offender himself inherited and wrestled with for years. His childhood was marked by “poverty, neglect and hunger,” said Parker. He experienced abuse in the foster care system.
“I am very sorry for what I did,” apologized Shae in court. “I have a lot of regrets.” Letters written to the victims by Shae were filed in court. Victim impact statements were not submitted.
With credit for time spent in remand custody — amounting to one-and-a-half years — Shae has three-and-a-half years left to serve. He must submit a DNA sample and has handed another firearms ban, a 10-year restriction to run concurrently to his existing lifetime ban.
Accepting that Shae — who plans to live off the land once released — requires firearms to “not be hungry,” Mahar allowed an application to be made for a sustenance exemption. That only means Shae can apply to be exempt from the ban.