B.C. couple sentenced to 15 years for manslaughter in 6-year-old boy’s abuse death

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A B.C. couple who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of a six-year-old boy have been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

With credit for time served, Rykel Frank (née Charleson), the boy’s biological mother, and Mitchell Frank, her partner, will each serve just over 12 years behind bars. Rykel is in the process of changing her name to Hanna Frank.

The couple had initially been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Dontay Lucas.

Click to play video: 'Two people charged with first-degree murder of Don-Tay-Patrick Lucas'

Two people charged with first-degree murder of Don-Tay-Patrick Lucas

Police found the child in medical distress at a Port Alberni home on March 13, 2018, and he later died in hospital.

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He had been removed from foster care four months prior and placed with his mother and stepfather.

Outside the Port Alberni courthouse on Thursday, Dontay’s father Patrick Lucas, said the end of the legal road had been a “long time coming.”

“I cry for him every day still, but me crying for him every day is holding him from being free up there. And after today we are able to let him be free,” he said.

“Today, after the sentencing, is a new beginning, a new chapter in my life, for my family, for the community. As hard as it is, I’m happy that it’s all been dealt with.”

Court hears of horrific abuse

During the sentencing hearing, the judge noted the killers’ history of alcohol and drug abuse, and reviewed acts and injuries that led to the boy’s death.

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The court heard how between December 2017 and Dontay’s death, the pair engaged in various forms of abuse including biting him, hitting him, making him plank, making him run up and down stairs and forcing him to hang from his knees from the top of a door until he fell.

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The court also heard how they had recorded a video of him planking with a cloth in his mouth crying hysterically, while his mother could be heard laughing.

Click to play video: 'Mother and stepfather charged with first-degree murder in Port Alberni boy’s death'

Mother and stepfather charged with first-degree murder in Port Alberni boy’s death

Between March 9 and March 13, the day of his death, Dontay was deprived of sleep, food and water, the court heard. By the end of the period, he was covered in bruises and abrasions to his face, head, neck, torso and extremities, the court heard.

On the morning of March 13, Rykel texted her own mother, who then called for an ambulance. First responders were unable to revive Dontay, who was pronounced dead in hospital.

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An autopsy revealed too many bruises on his body to list, along with several areas of Blunt force trauma to the head — injuries it concluded as the cause of death.

At Thursday’s hearing, both parents apologized for their roles in the boy’s death.

Rykel apologized to the court through a prepared statement, read by her lawyer.

“I acknowledge that some may not want to hear what I have to say,” the statement said.

“I apologize to all three sides of the families involved and to the community,  I was too focused on my grief and afraid to ask for help.  If I could change places with my son I would, I’m sorry.”

Mitchell told the court he loved and missed Dontay.

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“If there was anything I could do I would do it in a heartbeat.  I’m continuously working on bettering myself.  This is not who I am. I apologize to my family, my wife’s family, Patrick’s family,” he said.

Rykel had been affected by racism and colonialism and had a rough upbringing including being in government care from a very young age, sexual abuse, and struggles with drugs and mental health issues, her lawyer told the hearing.

Click to play video: 'Alberni RCMP hold a press conference on the murder of 6 year old Don-Tay-Patrick Lucas'

Alberni RCMP hold a press conference on the murder of 6 year old Don-Tay-Patrick Lucas

Mitchell was abused by alcoholic parents and placed into government care as a teen before beginning to abuse alcohol himself, his lawyer told the court.

The poor parenting he experienced caused him to use “mal-adjusted discipline techniques” to deal with Dontay, his lawyer told the court.

The night of Dontay’s death, the couple was stressing over their inability to get baby formula for their infant child who hadn’t eaten in over a day and was reliving their own troubled childhoods, the court heard.

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In its submissions to the court, the Crown noted that consideration must be given to the couple’s Indigenous background, the fact they were first-time offenders, and that they pleaded guilty.

However, prosecutors also noted they waited hours to seek medical attention for Dontay’s injuries, and that the significance of what they had done to a vulnerable person could not be overstated.

Outside the court, Patrick said hearing the apology meant a lot, and that he hoped it was sincere.

“It won’t make it right, it won’t bring him back, but it brought ease to my heart hearing it,” he said.

“As much anger as I carried towards them for taking my son’s life, I had to learn to come to acceptance of it so I could heal and move forward and let my son rest.”

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