Mother and step-father sentenced for killing 6-year-old Don-Tay Lucas in Port Alberni

Mother and step-father sentenced for killing 6-year-old Don-Tay Lucas in Port Alberni
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A photo of Don-Tay Lucas is shown on May 16, 2024.

A Port Alberni couple has been sentenced for the 2018 killing of six-year-old Don-Tay Lucas.

The emotional sentencing was witnessed by a packed court room including family, friends, teachers and former foster families on Thursday.

“His death impacted everyone from his school and his peers, to the people who worked with him, to his foster family, but importantly his biological family who now are still every day fighting for justice for their child,” said Graham Hughes, a family spokesperson.

It was March 2018 when Don-Tay suffered blunt force brain injuries just seven days after returning to live with his mother, Rykel Frank, and step-father, Mitchell Frank. He had previously been living in foster care.

It wasn’t until five hours after he was injured that first responders were called.

The couple pleaded guilty to manslaughter last fall and on Thursday were both sentenced, as part of a joint submission, to 15 years behind bars.

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During the sentencing the court heard numerous victim impact statements, including from Patrick Lucas, Don-Tay’s father. In it, Lucas says he lost his house, vehicle, and job from alcoholism two years after Don-Tay’s death. He still suffers from depression and says he hasn’t been able to hold down a job since.

A video of Don-Tay taken by his auntie was also played in court. She says her twin boys, seen dancing with Don-Tay, hate their culture now, and she doesn’t think her one son will ever perform this dance again.

We learned Thursday that both Rykel and Mitchell came from highly dysfunctional backgrounds, including parents who suffered from addiction. Both spent time in foster care and became alcoholics as adults. Rykel had suffered a miscarriage not long before Don-Tay and his sister moved into their home. Rykel was from the first generation of her family not to attend residential schools.

Mitchell’s lawyer admits Don-Tay should not have been in their care, and USMA, the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council’s child protection agency, not only failed Don-Tay but Rykell and Mitchell as well because they were left with a situation they couldn’t handle.

In a statement read by her lawyer, Rykel said “…not asking for help was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made…Nothing I can say can change what happened. If I could change places with my son I would. I’m sorry.”

When Mitchell addressed the court he said, “I just want to apologize first and foremost. I love him. I miss him. If there was anything I could do to bring him back I would.”

Don-Tay’s father said now that the sentencing is done his son can be free now and it’s been a long time coming. Lucas says Thursday will mark a new chapter for him, his family and the community.

“It sounded like they’re showing remorse and that, and they did take accountability for what they have done towards my son,” he said. “It won’t make it right. It won’t bring him back, but it brought ease to my heart.”

Martin Watts, the board chair of Haahuupayak Elementary School where Don-Tay attended school, says they gave staff and students the day off to process the sentencing.

“We wanted to ensure their hearts were looked after in a good way,” said Watts. Don-Tay would’ve been in Grade 7 this year. Watts said approximately 10 staff attended the sentencing hearing.

After credit for time already served in jail, the couple will spend 12 more years in a federal prison.

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