A senseless alcohol- and drug-fuelled fight took the life of a much-loved 35-year-old father of four, B.C. Supreme Court heard Friday.
With his defence lawyer by his side, Daniel Forrest Creagh stood in the prisoner’s dock and pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of Joe Gauthier on the morning of March 10, 2018.
Gauthier died outside a friend’s house in the middle of Hillside Avenue after Creagh stabbed him through the heart, then kicked him in the head after he fell to the ground.
Tensions were high as Creagh’s sentencing hearing began. Members of the public, including Gauthier’s family and friends, were required to step through a metal detector and be searched by sheriffs.
Before the proceedings began, Justice Jennifer Power told those crammed into the public gallery that she realized the matter was of great personal concern to everyone present, but the sentencing process must be respected.
“I want to request if you are having difficulty in controlling your emotions at any point, that you should quietly exit the courtroom. No outbursts will be tolerated,” said Power. “I have asked the sheriffs to remove anyone making an outburst and you may not be permitted back into the courtroom.”
Crown prosecutor Jeni Gillings read an agreed statement of facts into the record, revealing for the first time what happened during the early hours of March 10, 2018. Most of the people named in the statement are identified by their first names only.
The stabbing happened outside a house at 1485 Hillside Ave. where Anne Marie and Bobby lived with their tenant Tyrone, said Gillings.
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 and were drinking and doing cocaine.
About 2 a.m., Tyrone arrived home with Creagh and Emerson. Tyrone and Creagh were friends and hung out sometimes, said Gillings.
Shortly after, Gauthier and Caitlyn came over. They had known each other for many years and were casually dating. Tyrone had messaged them to come over and they arrived about 3:30 a.m.
Tyrone described his relationship with Gauthier as “pretty much like best friends.”
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,” Gillings read from the statement of facts.
Anne Marie’s group was in the kitchen. Tyrone’s friends were in the living room, until Anne Marie saw cocaine in the living room and asked Tyrone to keep to his room.
Gauthier, Creagh, Caitlyn, Tyrone and Emerson all ended up in Tyrone’s room.
Caitlyn said Creagh was acting weird and paranoid. He said he was on house arrest and kept closing the blinds.
Tyrone noticed that Creagh and Gauthier were talking a little bit 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, kind of,” said Gillings.
Anne Marie and Bobby’s friends left and Tyrone moved into the living room, consuming more drugs and alcohol. At some point, 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 kid, said Gillings.
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.”
Gauthier confronted Creagh, asking 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 angry. But Creagh denied ever saying he’d tried to fight him, said the prosecutor.
Gauthier punched Creagh in the face several times and Creagh fell to the ground. Gauthier was on top of him, but people intervened and pulled him off.
Then Gauthier turned his attention to Tyrone. Their confrontation inside the house before they stepped outside was captured on Caitlyn’s cellphone video, which was played for the court.
In the video, Creagh and Gauthier are talking face to face. Both are shirtless.
Gauthier is asking Tyrone why he had started it all and made him punch Creagh in the face. Tyrone says: “Are you f---ing kidding me? Why the f---- would I make that up.”
Gauthier says: “Let’s go outside, tough guy” and calls Tyrone a goof. The end of the video shows Gauthier going outside.
Meanwhile, Gillings said, Creagh rummaged through the kitchen drawers and grabbed a knife before he joined them.
People were jumping around and yelling outside. The scene was chaotic.
Gauthier punched Tyrone in the face and he fell to the ground. Then he 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. They were standing several feet apart and facing each other. Gauthier was unarmed, said Gillings.
Creagh advanced toward Gauthier, who slowly backed up. Creagh made three or four striking motions and stabbed Gauthier in his left shoulder and his left chest. Gauthier fell to the ground, unconscious. Creagh kicked him in the head.
As Gauthier was lying on the road, Caitlyn put his head on her lap. He wasn’t breathing. She called 911 multiple times.
Creagh ran off down Hillside.
The stab wound to Gauthier’s chest was 10 centimetres deep. It penetrated the chest wall and punctured the ascending aorta of his heart, causing his death.
Many people cried as family members, including Gauthier’s mother, Darlene Hogue, presented their victim-impact statements to the court.
The Crown is asking for an eight-year prison sentence. Gillings told the court Creagh was on a conditional sentence order for a crime of violence at the time of the killing.
Gauthier’s homicide was much closer to near-murder than near-accident, said Gillings.
“The only mitigating factor is his guilty plea.”
Defence lawyer Jordan Watt will begin his submissions on March 11.