Man gets seven years for Hillside Avenue killing

A Victoria man who fatally stabbed a 35-year-old father of four in the middle of Hillside Avenue has been sentenced to seven years in prison.

Daniel Forrest Creagh pleaded guilty in February to manslaughter in the death of Joe Gauthier on the morning of March 10, 2018.

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Creagh, 28, stabbed Gauthier through the heart, then kicked him in the head when he fell to the ground. Creagh, who has a significant history of violence, was originally charged with second-degree murder.

“I share the view of the Crown that the principles of denunciation and deterrence must be given primacy here,” B.C. Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Power said Friday.

“It is of grave concern to the court that this offence occurred when Mr. Creagh was on a conditional sentence order for a similar offence involving violence and was breaching the conditions of that order by being out past his curfew and consuming alcohol and drugs.”

Admissions of fact read into the court record at Creagh’s sentencing hearing described the fight leading to Gauthier’s death.

“This is perhaps the greatest tragedy of a case like this. A series of bad choices by an offender at a moment in time fuelled by drugs and alcohol, leading to a family suffering an immeasurable loss,” Power said.

"The loss of this father to his four young sons is particularly sad. The ripple effect of his death will be felt for generations.”

The admissions of fact revealed that the stabbing took place outside a house at 1485 Hillside Ave., where Anne Marie and her boyfriend, Bobby, lived with their tenant, Tyrone.

Anne Marie and Bobby had been downtown at a concert and took a taxi home about 1:30 a.m. They were joined by several friends, who were drinking and taking cocaine.

About 2 a.m., Tyrone arrived home with Creagh and another friend, Emerson.

At 3:30 a.m., Gauthier and his girlfriend, Caitlyn, came over. Tyrone, who described his relationship with Gauthier as “pretty much like best friends,” had messaged them to come over.

Gauthier and Creagh knew each other, but weren’t really friends. “No one at the house that night was aware of any issues between Joe and Danny prior to that night,” the statement of facts said.

Anne Marie’s group was in the kitchen. Tyrone and his friends were in the living room until Anne Marie saw cocaine on the table and asked Tyrone to keep to his bedroom.

Caitlyn said Creagh was acting weird and paranoid. Creagh told the others he was on house arrest and kept closing the blinds. He was worried people were looking in and wanted the door to Tyrone’s room closed.

Tyrone noticed that Creagh and Gauthier were talking and seemed tense around each other. “They were just standing in front of each other, like kind of in each other’s face and their body language made him think they wanted to scrap [with] each other,” the statement said.

After Anne Marie and Bobby’s friends left, Tyrone and his friends moved into the living room, consuming more drugs and alcohol. Creagh and Gauthier went into the bathroom together and stayed there between five and 20 minutes.

Gauthier came out of the bathroom, sat down beside Caitlyn and told her that he and Creagh had had a heart to heart, and he told Creagh he should get his life together for the sake of his daughter, said the statement.

Then, Gauthier went into the bathroom with Tyrone, who told him that Creagh said he had challenged Gauthier to a fight and Gauthier had “bitched out” and did not want to fight him.

Gauthier asked Creagh why he was talking disrespectfully about him when they’d just had a heart to heart. Gauthier said he’d never back down from a fight and that Creagh didn’t want to fight him. Gauthier was in Creagh’s face and was angry. Creagh denied saying he’d tried to fight Gauthier, the statement said.

Gauthier punched Creagh in the face several times and Creagh fell to the ground. Gauthier was on top of Creagh, but people pulled him off.

Creagh’s face was bleeding. There was blood on the front door and on the floor. Creagh was agitated and upset. He went to clean himself up. Anne Marie started cleaning up the blood, and she and Bobby told everyone to leave.

Gauthier was angry and asked Tyrone why he had started it and made him punch Creagh.

Tyrone asked Gauthier why he would make something up. Gauthier told him to go outside.

Meanwhile, Creagh rummaged through the kitchen drawers and grabbed a knife before he joined them.

Outside, people were jumping around and yelling in a chaotic scene.

Gauthier punched Tyrone in the face and Tyrone fell to the ground. Then Gauthier walked up to Creagh and said: “Yo, like if you didn’t say it, just walk away, bro. It’s all good. Just walk away.”

The two men moved to the centre lane of Hillside Avenue. Creagh had the knife in his right hand. Gauthier was unarmed. The two faced each other, several feet apart.

Creagh advanced toward Gauthier, who slowly backed up. Creagh made three or four striking motions toward Gauther’s upper body. Gauthier fell to the ground, unconscious. Creagh kicked him in the head and ran off along Hillside.

As Gauthier lay on the road, Caitlyn put his head on her lap. He wasn’t breathing. It was 4:58 a.m. when she made the first of multiple 911 calls.

The stab wound to Gauthier’s chest was 10 centimetres deep. It punctured the ascending aorta of his heart, causing his death.

Power considered Creagh’s personal background, psychological reports from previous sentencing proceedings and letters of support. Power found that Creagh had a difficult childhood with an alcoholic father and witnessed violence in the family home. He has a close and supportive relationship with his mother who has been a stabilizing influence.

Creagh earned his Grade 10 and has worked a number of jobs such as landscaping and construction. He started drinking at age 14 and was binge-drinking three times a week.

The reports said Creagh’s biggest risk factor is drinking because he becomes jealous and violent. Creagh acknowledges he has issues with impulse control and struggles with anger management.

His daughter was born in October 2016 dependent on methadone. She was apprehended at birth and placed in foster care. Creagh’s mother now has full custody of the four-year-old. Creagh’s long-term goal is to have custody of his daughter, Power said.

The judge found it “highly aggravating” that Creagh was on a conditional sentence order at the time of the offence. “Further the circumstances of the offence themselves are of grave concern. I am deeply troubled by the degree of gratuitous violence. The fact Mr. Creagh consumed cocaine and alcohol when he recognized in the past it was a risk factor for him to become violent is troubling and the fact he employed deadly force with a knife is deeply concerning.” The kick to the head when Gauthier was on the ground shows the callousness of his actions, Power said.

Gauthier was not armed and slowly backed up during the altercation and Creagh fled and did nothing to provide or seek assistance, she said.

Creagh’s criminal record includes 11 previous convictions and two breaches of a conditional sentence order. Three of those convictions involve assault charges against four victims.

Power found Creagh’s guilty plea, his remorse, the letters of support and his unfortunate upbringing to be mitigating factors. She also noted that Creagh has used his time in custody productively by taking programs to help his rehabilitation.

“The reality Mr. Creagh is you have already amassed an unenviable record of violence and if you come before the court again after you complete this sentence, you could find yourself spending the rest of your life in jail,” Power said. “You should keep that in mind as you work toward your own rehabilitation.”

Power gave Creagh credit for time spent in pre-trial custody. This means he will have four years and one month left to serve on the seven-year sentence.

The judge also imposed a lifetime weapons’ prohibition and ordered Creagh to provide a sample of his DNA.

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