It was an emotional Friday afternoon as family and friends of the two men killed by 27-year-old Dillon Ricky Whitehawk gathered at the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench in Regina for his sentencing.
The presiding judge, Justice Neil Robertson sentenced Whitehawk to life in prison for two first-degree murders he was found guilty of committing in 2019, without the possibility of parole until he is done serving those 25 years.
A number of ancillary orders have also been put on Whitehawk, which include him providing a sample of his DNA, a lifetime firearms and weapons ban and a no-contact order with a number of witnesses who testified during the trial.
In late April of this year, a jury found Whitehawk guilty of committing the two first-degree murders, which were each three weeks apart.
The jury took nearly nine hours to deliberate over the course of two days, following a three-week trial.
Whitehawk shot and killed 27-year-old Jordan Denton and 23-year-old Keenan Toto in late 2019.
The jury heard that Whitehawk targeted the men because they were wearing the rival colour red, and the killings helped advance his status within his gang.
The defence had argued Whitehawk didn’t pull the trigger, but was the fall guy for a group of people who were trying to save themselves.
After the guilty verdict was handed down, defence lawyer Thomas Hynes said Whitehawk was disappointed, but not surprised by the trial’s outcome.
Hynes said his client may have some challenges swallowing the jury’s verdict, as he wonders whether they found him guilty because he was a gangster.
Prior to the sentencing, three victim impact statements were read, one from each of the partners of the deceased men and one from the mother of Toto.
The women shared their memories of the young men, each described as being great fathers and husbands who deeply cared about their children, partners, family and friends. Both had their whole lives ahead of them.
Jillian LaPlante, Denton’s wife, stood up in the courtroom to read her statement. She spoke about her partner being an anchor in her life, who helped her through her battle with mental health, raising their children, and helping keep both their home and her life in as much order as possible.
LaPlante said he’d help her on tough days when she wasn’t able to dress herself due to her mental health issues, make big meals for their family to enjoy, and regularly help out with chores around their home, along with their finances. LaPlante added Denton treated her kids as if they were his own and that they miss their father very much now.
She added Denton tried to seek help for his own issues with mental health and addictions, something he had trouble finding and that they argued about during their last unexpected conversation with one another.
Tears rolled down LaPlante’s face as she recalled their last conversation, stating she wished it had gone differently.
“The same way he came into my life, unexpectedly, is the same way he was taken away from me and no sentence will ever be able to fix that devastating loss in my heart,” LaPlante told Global News.
LaPlante also stated that, based on what happened during the trial proceedings, she doesn’t think Whitehawk truly “comprehends” the pain and harm he’s caused the families.
Crown prosecutor Adam Breker described Whitehawk’s killing of the two men as “brutal and senseless,” and as demonstrating “disregard for human life.”
In his last statement to the court, Breker went on to say two strangers became killing targets for Whitehawk, whom he killed simply to impress his friends.
The sentencing comes after the Supreme Court of Canada’s (SCC) recent ruling on whether consecutive life sentences are constitutional as they relate to parole eligibility.
Last month, the SCC decided to strike down the decision that allows consecutive life sentences to be served in cases involving multiple murders.
In turn, that decision has now allowed Whitehawk to be eligible for parole after 25 years and not have to serve consecutive sentences for the two murders.
“What we are happy for is for the family to be able to move on in the grief process and see an end to those proceedings,” said David Belanger, senior Crown prosecutor.
Belanger went on to explain that a 25-year sentence is both the minimum and maximum sentence for first-degree murder in Canada, and so it is not a ruling that surprised either the prosecution or defence, adding the law does not allow the judge discretion in these types of cases.
When Whitehawk was asked by the judge if he would like to say anything before his sentencing, the 27-year-old said, “No, thank you.”
Justice Robertson said, although he knows the tragic loss of these families is immeasurable, he hopes the sentencing brings them closure.
The judge noted that even though Whitehawk currently shows no remorse, he hopes the young man will use his time in prison to reflect on the “callous” murders he committed and change his life for the better, in the spirit of both atonement and rehabilitation.
— with files from The Canadian Press
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