Winchester Orlando Thomas was sentenced to 12 years of new time in a federal penitentiary on Monday after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the death of Barbara Ann Joseph near Fort St. James more than two years ago.
Originally charged with second-degree murder, the 25-year-old Mr. Thomas had already spent two years in custody awaiting trial, and received the usual double credit for time spent in remand.
The Crown and defence agreed late last week on a joint sentencing submission for 12 years.
On Sept. 3, 2004, Mr. Thomas was unable to make contact with his girlfriend for a trip to Prince Rupert. He went on a two-day binge during which he consumed alcohol and marijuana, and was experiencing blackouts on Sept. 4, the court heard.
He ended up in a home near Fort St. James the evening of Sept. 4, 2004.
He had been in contact with Ms. Joseph, 43, during much of that day.
Ms. Joseph was his cousin.
Early that evening, according to his statement to police, Mr. Thomas had consensual sex with Ms. Joseph. Afterwards, they shared a cigarette and alcohol in the laundry room of the home.
"For reasons unknown to the court, they had a verbal altercation," B.C. Supreme Court Justice Eric Chamberlist said.
"We can only speculate what caused the explosion that took place," the judge said.
Mr. Thomas placed his hands on Ms. Joseph's neck and choked her into unconsciousness. He thought she was dead when she stopped struggling.
Then he engaged in a further act of sexual intercourse with her, court heard.
At that time he thought she was dead, but she was just unconscious, Judge Chamberlist said.
To deflect attention from himself, he used a pocket knife he had found in the residence and cut Ms. Joseph's throat, the judge said.
The autopsy showed that Ms. Joseph's breathing blood from this wound into her lungs caused her death, not the earlier choking incident.
Afterwards Mr. Thomas slashed her abdomen from the right side to the navel, court was told.
Mr. Thomas later told police this whole series of events was an out-of-body experience for him, Judge Chamberlist said.
"The B.C. Court of Appeal has referred to cases of manslaughter that are near murder, and this is such a case," said Crown counsel Rob Climie.
"There didn't seem to be an actual intent to kill," Mr. Climie said. "He was engaged in an unlawful act, but there is a reasonable doubt about intention to kill."
When the judge asked him if he had anything he'd like to say, Mr. Thomas told the court: "I am a young man. I have been struggling with addictions all most of my life. That includes alcohol. I'm very sorry for what happened to Ms. Joseph."