Port Alberni father says his son’s killers should be tried on murder charges

CHEK

The father of a six-year-old boy tortured and killed in Port Alberni in 2018 says he’s angry the couple that killed his son were able to plead guilty to manslaughter charges.

He says the crown should have pressed forward with murder charges against his biological mother and stepfather.

“The court’s decision is not at all what we are hoping for. It feels like Don-Tay has been failed by the system once again,” said Patrick Lucas, Don-Tay’s father.

Lucas prepared a statement which he read to CHEK News Tuesday following guilty pleas from the boy’s mother and stepfather, who have admitted they killed the boy.

“My son will never get to grow up and become a firefighter like he always dreamed of. My son was robbed of his innocence, his life, his potential and his future,” said Lucas.

Rykel Charleson and Mitchell Frank pleaded guilty to manslaughter, agreeing to a statement of facts Monday that included how they hit, bit and tortured the boy as they reintegrated him into their home from foster care.

The pair were originally charged with murder.

“It angers myself and my family. We heard that there was enough evidence for them to be charged with first-degree murder, but for it to be down to manslaughter, that doesn’t sit well with us,” said Lucas.

Other family members agree.

“I was really upset. I was really hurt on the changes that have been made. They don’t deserve to get out. My grandson wasn’t given a chance. He was only in grade one,” said Judy Campbell, Don-Tay’s grandmother.

They also take issue with USMA, the Nuu-chah-nulth’s child welfare agency, placing Don-Tay at the home.

“I didn’t agree with it. There was a bunch of reports made saying that there was abuse in the home. They didn’t do anything about it,” said Lucas.

Nuu-chah-nulth’s president says every abuse report would have been investigated, and the Ministry of Children and Families reviewed USMA’s handling of Don-Tay’s placement.

“They found that everything had been done followed the procedures, and so there was no wrongdoing on USMA’s part, and so it’s just a very tragic set of circumstances,” said Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.

The couple is slated to be sentenced in May. Don-Tay’s father and family say they’re glad the pair remain in jail, and they’re urging the judge to hand down the highest sentence possible as they now have to live the rest of their lives without their beloved son.

In a statement, B.C.’s Public Prosecution Service says the decision to accept the manslaughter plea was made “after a full and careful review of the facts of the offence, the relevant case law and the personal circumstances of the offenders.”

It says it also followed principled resolution discussions that follow B.C. Prosecution Service’s policy. It is publicly available at this link.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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