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Chemainus man pleads guilty in stabbing death of 20-year-old Duncan man

Colin John, 30, of Chemainus, pleaded guilty Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court in Victoria in the death of 20-year-old Derek Descoteau.
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Colin John, 30, of Chemainus, pleaded guilty Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court in Victoria in the death of 20-year-old Derek Descoteau. TIMES COLONIST FILE PHOTO

The family of a man stabbed to death in Chemainus in May 2016 is thankful that after five and a half years, his killer has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Colin John, 30, of Chemainus, pleaded guilty Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court in Victoria in the death of 20-year-old Derek Descoteau. John also pleaded guilty to the aggravated assault of Descoteau’s girlfriend, Janelle Guyatt, on May 20, 2016. The 16-year-old was stabbed five times and seriously injured.

“It’s been a rollercoaster over the last five and a half years,” Descoteau’s mother, Brenda Smith, said Tuesday as she left the Victoria courthouse. “Even today, we thought something could go sideways like it always does. It’s just like a big weight off our shoulders that we don’t have to go into court anymore, except for the sentencing.”

The sentence for second-degree murder is life in prison with no possibility of parole for 10 years. Aggravated assault carries a maximum sentence of 14 years.

Smith was in court with Descoteau’s stepfather, Steve Smith, his sister Paula and her husband Nate Phillips. Guyatt was also in the courtroom with her parents, Leah and Bill Guyatt.

John, cuffed at the hands and ankles and wearing jail-issued red sweatpants and shirt, stood and entered his pleas.

The trial began in late 2018. It heard that in May 2016, Descoteau and Guyatt were watching a movie in his father’s home in Chemainus when a man suddenly burst in and stabbed them. Descoteau died on the way to hospital.

John was at the scene of the attack when police arrived and was quickly arrested.

When the prosecution closed its case, defence lawyer Scott Sheets asked for an assessment of John’s mental fitness. John was initially found unfit to stand trial. However, a hearing in August found him fit.

The guilty plea was accepted on the basis of an agreed statement of facts, filed as an exhibit, but not read into the court record.

Justice Lisa Warren ordered that a presentence report with a psychiatric component be prepared to assist at sentencing. The reports are expected to be complete by Jan. 11. Crown and defence expect to set a date for a three-day sentencing hearing on Jan. 17.

John will remain in custody at the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre.

ldickson@timescolonist.com