The couple charged with murdering their six-year-old son in Port Alberni has pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Don-Tay Lucas died in 2018, and on Monday, the Port Alberni Supreme Court heard horrific details about the last few days of the child’s life.
Crown Counsel read an agreed statement of facts with stepfather Mitchell Frank in the courtroom and coaccused mother Rykel Charleson, who also goes by Rykel Frank, appearing by video.
It outlined how Don-Tay had spent most of his life in foster care but was transitioning back to living with his mother and stepfather.
That process started in November 2017, with him officially moving in full-time on March 6, 2018.
Don-Tay died seven days later.
It says the month after that transition began, Don-Tay’s school attendance started to drop off, and the two started abusing him.
The abuse included biting, hitting, making him plank, making him run up and down the stairs and forcing him to hang from his knees on the top of a door until he fell. Some of these incidents were filmed or photographed.
In the days leading up to Don-Tay’s death, it says they also deprived him of sleep, food and water. There were other children in the home as well who were aged one, seven, and nine.
The courts heard how the day before Don-Tay’s death, there was stress in the house because the accused had run out of formula for the baby.
At 2:30 the next morning, Frank went to get some from a nearby house.
Also that morning, the courts heard that Don-Tay received blunt force brain injuries that caused him to have a seizure.
The two accused tried to treat Don-Tay’s seizure by putting him in the shower. At 2:47 a.m., Rykel started internet searches regarding the symptoms relating to brain death.
From 2:55 to 4:44 a.m., Rykel repeatedly texted her mother asking for help. Just before 8 a.m., her mother responded and messaged that she would come to the house.
Over an hour later, Rykel’s mother arrived to help after taking the bus to get there. Soon after, she called for an ambulance and told dispatchers that Don-Tay had fallen down the stairs and was not breathing. At the end of the call, the grandmother asks, “When did you notice he was like this?” Rykel responded, “About 3.”
After first responders arrived, they could not revive Don-Tay. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
On autopsy, the pathologist found the bruises to Don-Tay too numerous to list and determined his cause of death to be blunt force head trauma not consistent with a fall down the stairs.
Both accused had been charged in May of 2022 with Don-Tay’s murder. On Monday in Port Alberni Supreme Court, they both pleaded guilty to the facts and a charge of manslaughter.
Judith Sayers, the president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council says she’s glad the pair pleaded guilty.
“The thought of the family having to go through a torturous, very awful trial has really bothered me ever since they entered pleas of not guilty when everybody knew they did it. They were the only two in the house, right? So I’m glad they’re not going to put the family through that.”
A Gladue report, which takes into account the accused’s Indigenous background and experiences, has been ordered for both.
They remain in custody until a two-day sentencing scheduled for May 16 and 17, 2024.
Editor’s note: Previous information provided to reporters had indicated Don-Tay’s name is spelled Dontay, however, according to the statement of facts provided at the court case, the spelling is Don-Tay.