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B.C. parents sentenced to 15 years for death of 6-year-old boy

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A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has sentenced the mother and stepfather of a six-year-old boy who died from blunt-force trauma in 2018 to 15 years in prison.

Rykel Frank (née Charleson) and Mitchell Frank both stood in ankle shackles in a Port Alberni courtroom Thursday as the judge read their punishment for the death of Dontay Patrick Lucas, who was found in medical distress inside the Port Alberni townhome he shared with his mother on March 13, 2018.

The boy was rushed to hospital but died from multiple traumatic injuries.

Two weeks later, the Mounties announced the boy's death was considered suspicious.

Four years would pass before the mother and stepfather would be charged, initially with first-degree murder. Then in November of last year, they were allowed to plead guilty to the lesser charges of manslaughter.

Crown prosecutors sought 15 years for the couple, each with three years' credit for time already served, which the judge granted.

'My worst nightmare'

An emotion-filled courtroom heard multiple victim impact statements Thursday and watched a video of Dontay, who wanted to be a firefighter when he grew up, performing an Indigenous ceremonial dance with his cousin.

The boy's biological father Patrick Lucas called his son's death "my worst nightmare," describing how he fell into addiction and depression in the aftermath.

"(He) always had a great big smile," Dontay's grandmother Judy Campbell said. "His smile was infectious."

Dontay's youngest sister, who was an infant when he died, submitted a drawing she made of her brother as her impact statement.

In her defence, Dontay's mother told the court she was under extreme stress at the time of his death, and wasn't emotionally up to the task of parenting. She said failing to ask for support from the community was the biggest mistake of her life.

Mitchell similarly described being unequipped to raise the child, adding he has a limited memory of what happened the night Dontay was killed due to his abuse of alcohol at the time. 

'The system is broken'

Dontay had been in foster care before he was transferred into the custody of his mother and stepfather.

"The very people that should be looking after him were not," Karen Ruttan, Dontay's former foster mother, told CTV News in January. "The system is broken, totally broken. And it needs to change so our children are safe."

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council responded to the sentencing Thursday afternoon, saying Dontay's loss has been profoundly felt in the community.

"Our nation is heartbroken at the loss of this young soul," President Cloy-e-iis, Judith Sayers wrote in a statement.

“We are hopeful today’s sentencing brings some measure of solace and healing to everyone still reeling from this loss."

The statement also said that Dontay's family summoned the strength to express forgiveness at the hearing and encouraged others who have been calling for justice to follow their lead.

"We encourage everyone to respect this tremendous act of forgiveness so that Dontay can finally rest and his family, friends and community can continue on their healing path,” added NTC vice-president Les Doiron.

Early this year, B.C. Premier David Eby promised answers in the boy's death but stopped short of calling for a public inquiry.

"For Dontay's case, we'll ensure that British Columbians get the answers they need," Eby said. "And, in particular, ensure that we have the information we need to prevent any similar deaths from taking place."

With files from CTV News Vancouver Island's Andrew Garland

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