A man who randomly killed a Nigerian nursing student in a brutal attack will have to serve 15 years in prison before he is eligible to apply for parole.
Keeton Gagnon, 43, was found guilty in September of second-degree murder for an unprovoked knife attack on Nicholas Nwonye on a Calgary light-rail transit platform in June 2017.
Nwonye, 46, had just finished his nursing classes at a downtown college when he was stabbed.
Gagnon then walked away and boarded another train where he was arrested.
Before delivering her sentence, Justice Michele Hollins of Court of Queen’s Bench said the crime took place among innocent people who were trying to use public transit, “which should be a safe thing to do.” She said the public danger Gagnon created was of grave concern.
“Perhaps the most egregious part of this offence was its senselessness, specifically the random and apparently arbitrary choice of Mr. Nwonye as the victim,” Hollins said Tuesday.
“There is absolutely no motive or reason available to us for this act and more importantly to Mr. Nwonye’s family.”
Hollins said Gagnon’s tragic and abusive upbringing did lower his moral blameworthiness. He began drinking at age 10, used drugs when he was 13 or 14 and had 42 criminal convictions between 1997 and 2017.
“Certainly this is an offender who has not only been traumatized and abused as a child, but perhaps more devastatingly was completely, emotionally abandoned. He has had none of the love, protection, attention and feeling of safety that all children should have,” she said.
“Mr. Gagnon could fairly be characterized as a person whose path was largely determined for him, a person who had little choice about how to deal with such despairing circumstances.”
The Crown was seeking a parole ineligibility period of between 15 and 17 years on the automatic life sentence, while the defence suggested 12 years would be sufficient.
“This was a brutal crime. The depth of the stab wounds indicated a great deal of force. It is also clear from the video evidence that Mr. Nwonye had no idea this was coming,” Hollins said.
“Taking into consideration the truly horrible circumstances of your life to date, but also the truly horrible circumstances of a violent offence that ended the life of a completely innocent bystander – and deprived his family of their husband, father, son and brother – I am increasing the period of parole ineligibility for you to 15 years.”
Gagnon addressed the court immediately after his sentencing.
“Can I file my appeal now?”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2022.
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