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Dad expresses relief after premier vows to seek answers in boy's death

“It’s something we have been fighting for for quite some time. We’ve longed for it,” Patrick Lucas says
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Dontay Patrick Lucas died in 2018 of blunt force trauma to the brain after being transitioned back into the care of his mother by USMA Nuu-chah-nulth family and child services. VIA FAMILY

The father of a six-year-old Port Alberni boy killed by his mother and stepfather six years ago says he is relieved that Premier David Eby said he will provide answers about the boy’s horrific death.

“It’s something we have been fighting for for quite some time. We’ve longed for it,” Patrick Lucas said Tuesday.

His son Dontay died in 2018 of blunt force trauma to the brain after being transitioned back into the care of his mother by USMA Nuu-chah-nulth family and child services.

Dontay’s mother, Rykel Charleson, and stepfather, Mitchell Frank, were accused of depriving the boy of water, food and sleep, hitting and biting him. The couple, who were originally charged with first-degree murder, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and are to be sentenced in Port Alberni on May 16 and 17.

Lucas and other family members have never been told why Dontay was returned to his mother’s home and why no one investigated numerous reports of neglect and abuse made to the RCMP and the child protection agency.

Lucas has launched an online petition demanding a thorough investigation into Dontay’s death.

Representative for children and youth Jennifer Charlesworth has said she is unable to investigate Dontay’s death because of the ongoing criminal case, which will only end after the accused are sentenced and the appeal period is over.

In a statement last month, Charlesworth said she made the decision not to conduct a full investigation into the child’s life and death due to a number of factors, including the potential further harm and trauma it could cause the family and community, and the amount of time that had passed since his death and how that might affect the quality of the investigation.

On Monday, Eby said he would ensure that British Columbians get the answers they need in Dontay’s case, “and in particular, that we have the information we need to prevent any similar deaths from taking place.”

The premier said the province is committed to ensuring that “every child grows up in a safe, in a loving home,” and to “the importance of the work that will need to continue to be done by our minister of children and ­families to ensure that’s the case.”

Lucas said it was emotional for him to hear Eby’s words. “It’s something me and family have been waiting for, to be able to have a voice, to be able to speak for my late son,” said Lucas. “It touches my heart. It is emotional. But I’m happy that Dontay’s story is getting more attention and that people will be held accountable.”

Dontay’s older sister Mia has taken her brother’s death hard, he said.

“She still grieves for her brother lots. Since she lost her little brother, she has basically become a mute. She only talks to a handful of people, mostly communicates through texting.”

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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