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B.C. man who killed girlfriend while under no-contact order to spend 19 more months in jail

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Warning: This story contains disturbing details

A man who pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his girlfriend in northern B.C. has been handed a five-year sentence, and with credit for time served will spend 19 more months in jail.

April Monk died in Vancouver General Hospital on Feb. 8, 2022 due to injuries suffered when Donald James Beynon repeatedly hit her in the head with a glass bottle, the court heard.

Five months before he killed Monk, Beynon was charged with assaulting her, according to the sentencing decision passed down in the B.C. Supreme Court last month and posted online this week.

After the Sept. 30, 2021 assault, Beynon was released with the condition he have no contact with Monk.

At the time of her death, Monk was 39 years old and had five children. Loved ones described her as “funny, a survivor and always forgiving,” the court heard.

The crime

The court heard that Monk and Beynon visited an individual referred to as J.K. in Fort St. James on Feb. 6, 2022. The three of them drank heavily to the point of being “very intoxicated,” and J.K. went to bed sometime between 1:30 and 2 a.m.

Shortly before 4 a.m., three other people arrived at the home to find Monk lying unresponsive on the couch with a bloody head. Beynon had blood on his hands and reportedly didn’t answer any questions from the group.

One of them called the police, and Mounties arrived at the house just before 5 a.m. “RCMP forced the door open and found Ms. Monk unconscious with blood on her face, and Mr. Beynon on the couch, shirtless, with blood on his hands.” Police also saw broken glass and blood in Monk’s hair and on the floor along with a broken bottle.

Beynon was arrested for aggravated assault and breach of a release order, according to the decision.

At the hospital in Fort St. James, Monk was diagnosed with brain bleeding and hemorrhagic stroke and she had extensive lacerations on her face and head. Pieces of glass were lodged in her scalp.

After dying of her injuries, an autopsy named the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head.

Repeat offender

Other than a previous no-contact order for assaulting Monk, the court heard that Beynon had a lengthy criminal record.

That included four separate convictions for intimate partner violence assaults, in 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2017. In the 2014 instance, Beynon broke into his victim’s home when there was a non-contact order in place. His criminal history also includes “a pattern of breaches of community orders.”

Beynon was also convicted of sexual interference with a person under 16 in 2015, when the victim was an intoxicated 13-year-old, and of assaulting police officers in 2009 and 2011.

A risk assessment from a forensic psychiatrist suggested a “potential” for Beynon to be rehabilitated because he hopes to undergo substance use treatment and return to work. However, the writer concluded that he “remains at high risk of intimate partner violence or general interpersonal violence” due to a history of severe substance abuse and his previous repeated assaults.

The report noted “his violent behaviour may result from a lack of insight, empathy, anxiety, and guilt; and that his decision making ability has been destabilized by impaired concentration, reasoning, and impulsive thinking style.”

Sentencing

Beynon’s pre-sentencing and Gladue reports note that he is Indigenous and is the descendant of a number of residential school survivors. The court heard his parents struggled with alcoholism in his early childhood and he was at the receiving end of physical and sexual violence while growing up.

The decision says Beynon describes himself as an alcoholic and that he started drinking and using drugs at 13 years old. “Mr. Beynon's father advised the writer of the presentence report that Mr. Beynon's biggest challenges are anger and alcohol misuse, and thinks that he needs to be in a long term treatment centre,” it reads.

The Crown and defense counsel both agreed that a fit sentence would be five years in jail.

In his oral reasons, Supreme Court Justice Andrew Mayer said Beynon’s moral culpability is high because of the violent nature of Monk’s killing and the fact that it took place in the context of an intimate partner relationship.

Other aggravating factors included that Monk is also an Indigenous woman, that she was in a vulnerable condition when killed—being intoxicated—that Beynon “took no steps” to get medical help after he assaulted Monk, his significant criminal record, and that he was under a no-contact order at the time of the killing.

Mayer named mitigating factors as Beynon’s guilty plea, which spared Monk’s loved ones from a lengthy trial, and that the judge accepted he was remorseful.

“Although not in and of themselves a mitigating factor, the impact of intergenerational trauma resulting from Mr. Beynon's Indigenous background is something that the court is able to consider in determining the extent of his moral culpability. Ms. Monk is also of Indigenous background. This must be also be considered,” Mayer said.

The judge ultimately agreed that the proposed five-year sentence “properly reflects the paramount principle of deterrence and denunciation, which is required as a result of the gravity of and high moral culpability in this offence.”

Beynon had already spent 831 days in custody by the time of his sentencing, so with 1.5 times credit for time served, he was given 579 days’ incarceration.

In addition, Beynon was handed a lifetime firearms prohibition, is required to give a DNA sample and will be on probation for 30 months once released.

Mayer, the Crown and defence recommended Beynon serve his sentence at the Guthrie House Therapeutic Community within the Nanaimo Correctional Centre to treat his addiction.

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