A 47-year-old man who was sentenced to eight years in jail last month for the killing of a man more than half his age has a long history of violence, law-breaking and alcoholism, according to a court report.
In sentencing Sheldon Finlayson for manslaughter in the 2018 death of 20-year-old Marathon resident Wade-Hendry-Lee Otiquam-Joy, Superior Court Judge W. Danial Newton noted the offender’s “lengthy criminal record” since 1989 as both an adult and young offender.
“I note your significant criminal record consisting of over 80 convictions, including 23 for assaults and 30 convictions for failing to comply with court orders,” Newton wrote about Finlayson in the June 1 sentencing.
“Significant,” Newton added “is the fact that three of the assault convictions relate to occurrences in the three years immediately prior to this manslaughter, indicating that prior sentences have not changed your behaviour.”
Court heard earlier that Finlayson, who is a member of Long Lake First Nation, was in an alcohol-fuelled, belligerent mood on the afternoon of July 31, 2018 when he confronted Otiquam-Joy inside a Marathon home on Stevens Avenue.
When Otiquam-Joy declined to fight, Finlayson delivered a devastating blow to the younger man’s head area as he was in the process of sitting down.
“I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Finlayson meant to cause serious bodily harm to Otiquam-Joy, based on the force he used in this unforeseen attack,” Newton wrote.
Otiquam-Joy, who was treated at the scene by paramedics, died the next day in the Thunder Bay hospital. An obituary said he was an avid hockey player, “loyal friend, loving son, and an amazing brother, cousin, and grandson.”
Newton wrote that Otiquam-Joy’s family members were left distraught by his death.
“All suffered, and continue to suffer, pain and anguish,” Newton wrote.
“Lee was just starting his life, and those around him have been deprived of his companionship, friendship and the opportunity for shared experiences.”
Finlayson, a father of three teenagers, later expressed remorse for the attack. A pre-sentencing report noted he was considered “a very high risk” to re-offend. He pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charge last December.
The Crown prosecutor in the case requested a sentence of eight to 12 years; Finlayson’s lawyer said five to six years would be appropriate
“With credit for pre-sentence custody, (Finlayson’s lawyer) submits that an appropriate sentence would be a sentence of two years less a day plus probation,” Newton wrote.
Newton said when he was considering the length of Finlayson’s sentence, he took into account “adverse impact factors that affect Indigenous people in general, and Finlayson specifically, including family breakdown due to alcohol in the family home; and physical abuse and trauma injury during childhood.”
Also taken into account, Newton wrote, was “the likely causal connection between Finlayson’s life circumstances and his issues with addiction that are a factor in his criminal history.”
In the end, Newton said, he concluded that such mitigating factors were outweighed by those of “separation, denunciation and deterrence.”
“A custodial sentence is necessary to reflect the objectives of denunciation, deterrence and the gravity of the offence,” Newton wrote.
He added: “Healing and rehabilitation can also be addressed through Indigenous centred programming aimed at addressing Finlayson’s issues with addiction and violence.”
After “enhanced” credit was given for pre-sentence custody during the COVID-19 pandemic, Newton ordered Finlayson to spend another 3 1/2 years in jail.
In addition, Finlayson was ordered to not possess weapons for 10 years. He was also required to submit a DNA sample and not contact any of his victim’s family members.