Photo by Photo Submitted
Photo by Photo Submitted
Darryl Sheepway testified in his own defence Wednesday in Yukon Supreme Court.
The 39-year-old is facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of Christopher Brisson, 25, in August 2015.
Sheepway spoke about his mental health, and how his crack cocaine addiction had spiralled out of control.
He also testified about his involvement in Brisson’s death and his time spent in custody at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre (WCC).
In the fall of 2014, Sheepway said, he began seeking treatment for depression and heavy marijuana use.
He discovered a co-worker was also in recovery for a crack cocaine addiction, and they began using marijuana together.
“She’d tease me quite a bit about the fact that I was in recovery for using marijuana,” he said.
Sheepway testified she first introduced him to powdered cocaine and crack cocaine in the summer of 2015.
“I thought it was the greatest feeling I’d ever had in my life,” he said, describing it as euphoric. “To me, it was everything marijuana wasn’t.”
The pair began using together about once a week throughout June and July, Sheepway said. He claimed she always purchased the drugs.
“I didn’t know anybody that was involved in cocaine. Period,” he said.
Sheepway then went on leave from work when his son was born on July 31. But he said he was still having fantasies and dreams about crack cocaine, and wanted direct access to the drug.
After calling around, Sheepway said he obtained Brisson’s number as a potential supplier.
They met for the first time in early August, and from there, Sheepway said, his drug use quickly escalated.
He began by using around $50 to $100 worth of crack cocaine a day, which grew to a $300 to $500 daily habit in the weeks leading up to Brisson’s death.
Sheepway was paying for the drugs by trading and selling a large quantity of marijuana he had and taking out cash advances on his wife’s credit card.
He said he rehearsed what he planned to say to his wife once she discovered the money was missing.
That day came on Aug. 27, and Sheepway insisted that he wasn’t responsible. But his wife was suspicious, and took his phone when she left for town.
The phone case held Sheepway’s ID and bank cards, so he had no access to money.
Sheepway said he was ashamed and humiliated that he had become “hopelessly addicted” to crack cocaine. He began thinking that his family would be better off without him.
“I didn’t want my kids to be raised in a home with a stoned parent,” he said. “I didn’t want to set the same legacy for my own kids that was set for me.”
He testified that he was coming down off of crack cocaine and wanted more drugs to build up the courage to kill himself.
He met Brisson at the Mountain Ridge Hotel, where he lived. He asked for several hundred dollars’ worth of crack cocaine on credit. Brisson gave him $50 worth, or about half a gram.
Sheepway said the drugs went really quickly, and he desperately wanted more.
While driving home, he hatched a plan to rob Brisson with the loaded shotgun in his truck. He noted that “in hindsight, it was a poor plan.
“I never had any intention of actually firing the gun,” he testified. “Honestly, I assumed when I showed him the gun and asked for drugs, he would’ve handed it over.”
Just before 4:00 that afternoon, the pair met at a pullout on the McLean Lake Road.
Sheepway told the court that when he raised his gun and asked Brisson to hand over whatever drugs he had, Brisson grabbed the gun and tried to pull it into his truck.
In the struggle, Sheepway said, the 12-gauge pump action went off twice in Brisson’s cab.
After the second shot, Sheepway was able to regain control of the shotgun.
As Brisson’s truck rolled forward, he said, he leaned out of his driver’s side window and fired a third shot at the back of the truck.
“I think the only thing I can say is I wasn’t thinking when I fired that third shot,” he said, noting the whole incident lasted fewer than five seconds.
Sheepway was adamant that only three shots were fired.
He also disputed testimony by a firearms expert that two shots had been fired through the back window of Brisson’s truck, one hitting Brisson and the other exiting through the windshield.
Following the final shot, Brisson sped backwards and out of sight. His truck crashed into the brush off the the road and he was ejected from the vehicle.
Sheepway approached and said he was panicked that he was responsible for someone’s death.
But he was still focused on drugs. He checked Brisson’s truck and his body, taking whatever drugs he could find and more than $2,000 in cash.
He then drove home, stopping to use the drugs on the way.
“I remember feeling like my heart was going to jump out of my chest,” he said.
He said he realized he didn’t want to die after seeing Brisson’s body and almost losing control of his truck.
After getting home, Sheepway decided to return to the scene to get rid of evidence.
He picked up the shotgun shells and found more bags of drugs on the ground.
He also moved Brisson’s body. Sheepway said he panicked and ended up pushing Brisson down an embankment overlooking Miles Canyon.
During cross-examination, Sheepway noted he had became a good shot with the shotgun.
Target practice with pop cans and clay pigeons had been a favourite pastime when he had done seasonal work for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, he said.
Crown prosecutor Jennifer Grandy also highlighted lies that Sheepway told the RCMP in various statements prior to his arrest in August 2016.
“At the time, I wasn’t ready to admit my involvement,” Sheepway testified. “I was scared.”
But he claimed when he took RCMP officers on a re-enactment of the crime on Oct. 4, 2016, he was telling the truth to the best of his memory.
“I didn’t feel I had anything left to hide,” he said.
Grandy also questioned Sheepway’s ability to drive, ride a mountain bike, parent his young daughter and take care of 15 sled dogs while heavily using crack cocaine.
“These weren’t difficult tasks to do,” Sheepway said.
Sheepway also testified about the time he has spent at the WCC.
“I think my mental health has been consistently pretty poor for the duration of my incarceration at WCC,” he said.
And he claimed his mental health has deteriorated due to feelings of isolation and inadequate services.
“I feel like I’ve essentially been put in a box and stored on a shelf for 17 months,” he said.
Sheepway testified he spends most of his time in his cell.
He is allowed out three to four hours a day with one other inmate into a larger empty room on the unit. It contains a shower, a couple of tables and a telephone.
Sheepway also claimed he doesn’t have access to the same services as other inmates do, including exercise equipment, programing or social activities.
Sheepway noted mental health experts have spoken about his potential for borderline personality disorder and narcissistic tendencies. He feels this has been exacerbated by the time he spends alone.
“I don’t have any real relationships with people anymore,” he said.
The court-imposed no-contact orders have cut him off from many people, he added.
“I don’t really have anybody to confide in or talk to or work things out.”
Sheepway said he has seen both a psychologist and a psychiatrist about once every three weeks since he was arrested.
The defence hopes to call forensic psychiatrist Dr. Shabehram Lohrasbe to testify as an expert witness on Nov. 29.
The Crown and defence will enter into a voire dire, or a hearing, over whether Lohrasbe will be permitted to testify on Nov. 24.
If Dr. Lohrasbe does testify, the Crown said it intends to call Dr. Phillip Klassen for rebuttal on Dec. 4.
Justice Leigh Gower is hearing the case.
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