Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Whitehorse Star

Darryl Sheepway

Accused man had unhappy early life: forensic psychiatrist

The final piece of evidence was presented in Darryl Sheepway’s murder trial Wednesday in Yukon Supreme Court.

By Emily Blake on December 7, 2017

The final piece of evidence was presented in Darryl Sheepway’s murder trial Wednesday in Yukon Supreme Court.

Sheepway, 39, is facing a first-degree murder trial after shooting and killing Christopher Brisson, 25, on Aug. 28, 2015.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Philip Klassen testified for the Crown on Sheepway’s mental state at the time of the crime and how it may have been influenced by his crack cocaine use.

He said Sheepway was not experiencing cognitive interference from his drug use at the time other than experiencing cravings.

“There is nothing in Mr. Sheepway’s account where he says he couldn’t think straight because he was too high,” he noted.

Klassen’s testimony was a rebuttal to the defence’s expert witness, Dr. Shabehram Lohrasbe. The latter testified Nov. 29 that Sheepway would have been in an “abnormal” mental state.

Klassen noted he took a different approach, basing his findings on Sheepway’s statements about his thoughts at the time and evidence on his ability to function in other situations while under the influence of crack cocaine.

Lohrasbe used a more conceptual approach based on the general effects of crack cocaine, Klassen said.

The psychiatrist also testified about Sheepway’s childhood and early marijuana use, saying he had a “very unhappy early life.

“I think there’s a hole inside Mr. Sheepway, the kind of hole you get when you’re not loved,” he said.

Klassen explained that Sheepway coped through overcompensatory confidence, isolation and avoidance and marijuana use.

These strategies worked for a long time, he said, but Sheepway was growing increasingly unhappy with his life by the summer of 2015.

This included residing in a small living space, hiding his marijuana use, and the birth of his second child.

“The house of cards came down,” Klassen said, on the afternoon of Aug. 28, when Sheepway’s wife discovered he had been taking money from her credit card.

Sheepway felt shame and guilt over the theft and his drug use. He had run out of crack cocaine and was feeling suicidal, Klassen noted, calling it a “perfect storm.”

All of those stressors were affecting Sheepway when he went to meet Brisson to get more drugs and decided to try to rob him, Klassen said.

Klassen also explained the psychoactive effects of crack cocaine, which include feelings of euphoria, self-confidence, mental alertness and greater energy.

Smoking crack cocaine has the most rapid onset of any form of crack cocaine, he said. Effects can last from 30 to 45 minutes.

When a person “crashes,” it’s a dysphoric, unpleasant experience that includes loss of energy, cravings and depression, he said.

At the conclusion of Klassen’s testimony, there was a concern by the defence that they had not received nine pages of notes the psychiatrist had taken when interviewing Sheepway for his report.

The Crown explained that it was the result of some confusion, and agreed to locate the notes and give the defence a copy.

The defence said it’s reserving the right to re-open cross-examination of Klassen if more questions arise from the notes.

Justice Leigh Gower noted his concern with having the trial conclude in a timely manner.

“I’ve got some real concerns about things going sideways,” he said. “There’s been so many unexpected applications in this trial already.”

Closing arguments in the trial began this morning.

Comments (17)

Up 5 Down 0

warlord on Dec 11, 2017 at 2:42 pm

There's a good chance the crown will mess up their presentation/evidence, etc.
The comment about shared blame of the crack dealer is a real mind boggler considering he's not around to present his side of the story. You don't go into a deal with a shotgun and no cash if you don't plan to use it. We are talking three shots. No matter how bad childhood and addiction is they are not motives for murder, look at the crime and look for motive not emotional excuses.

Up 6 Down 1

Mr M on Dec 10, 2017 at 8:24 pm

I grew up in a household where my father died of cancer at a young age and I for one didn't get a lot of toys that I would've liked to get but I didn't go and become a drug user or dealer. It made me realize I have to work harder for what I wanted. I believe Mr Sheepway had more than enough opportunities to turn his life around. He belongs behind bars where he can fantasize about drugs. To bad he has no remorse for killing Mr Brisson. Mr Brisson was not innocent and he had ample opportunities to also turn his life around. This does not give anyone the right to murder someone.Bad story all around. RIP Mr Brisson and Mr Sheepway I hope you spend a lot of time in Jail as Mr Brisson will not be able to explain his side of the story. To bad there are children involved.

Up 6 Down 0

ProScience Greenie on Dec 9, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Zero sympathy. Especially playing the weed card.

I'll say this again, if anyone knows anyone dealing crack or using it, just stay the hell away and tell the cops. Crack (and the rest of the hard drugs) is bad stuff and we need to get rid of those bringing it into our territory.

Up 3 Down 0

@ watching on Dec 8, 2017 at 7:41 pm

Agreed there have been previous cases where victims have been blamed for provocation, the crime of passion excuse where there's an emotional relationship between victim and killer. Don't think it's right, but that's what the law says.

Two people agreeing to fight is different from an assault where one person defends themselves physically because they can't get away.

Agreed that the victim had served time for drug dealing and after serving his time he was dealing again. Don't know his educational background or upbringing, but a criminal record couldn't help his employment prospects. Maybe he would have straightened out, maybe not - no one will ever know.

The accused apparently comes from a well-to-do family, had a wife and two kids, a house, education and employment, including previous work as a conservation officer and correctional officer so he probably had some idea crack was a bad idea.

Brisson wasn't his dealer when he started crack, and no one made him do it. No one made him steal from his closest family, or choose robbery over treatment although it was available and he'd been in counselling before when he went out east for treatment and committed robberies and stole from other family members. Brisson didn't overcome this guy to begin using drugs, and killing Brisson didn't cure him of addiction or robbing people and it won't stop others trying crack and getting addicted.

This isn't some righteous kill. And whatever happens in court, there are no winners in this case.

Up 7 Down 0

of course this is an excuse now on Dec 8, 2017 at 4:06 pm

One time I didn't get a toy that I REALLY wanted as a child. It upset me. Obviously, I had a terrible childhood. (yes, sarcasm. apparently he came from a very privileged upbringing).

I, however, did not decide that it would be a good idea to start smoking crack and kill someone.
I get so bothered by people who reach at strings for any excuse just to get away with murder these days.

Up 5 Down 0

watching the case on Dec 8, 2017 at 3:25 pm


"The 45-year-old man was on trial for second-degree murder. He killed Susan Catherine Klassen, 36, in the bedroom of their Lake Laberge home in November 1995. Negative comments made by the wife had caused the estranged husband to fall into a deep, blind rage, the jury had decided."

Up 5 Down 0

watching the case on Dec 8, 2017 at 3:23 pm

PS - I think he is going to be convicted of first degree murder, with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.

Meanwhile remember Ralph Klassen who stalked (for over a year) his wife Susan then strangled her to death? I'm not sure he even spent 5 years in jail. The judge decided that Susan said mean things to him and caused him to lose his mind with anger. Look it up. That was here in the Yukon. She was a good person who worked and paid taxes and who told stories at the Story Telling Festival. Dead. Not his fault though! She drove him to it by spurning his advances.

It's not like there isn't case history for "blaming the victim" for the perpetrator's mind set.

Up 5 Down 0

watching the case on Dec 8, 2017 at 3:18 pm

to Philosophy: " struggling to bring his life around. " - by dealing crack. Ya, sure. Brisson spent years in a federal penitentiary (at least his second gig in jail), already for drug and gun offenses. But this time he was really really trying to change.

I'll tell you who's on my own 'unworthy' list: predators. And that includes repeat offender massive crack dealers. It does not include the disabled or the poor so don't bother with that stretch.

I maintain that Chris Brisson played a part in his own fate, and that he cared not one bit about what he was unleashing on others through his crack dealing. Whether that be break ins, hold ups, broken homes - he didn't care and he never expected to be the target. It must have been a big surprise when the gun was pointed at him for a change.

I do wish he never got shot. But I do not believe he was 'struggling to turn his life around.' If that were the case, what was he doing with thousands of dollars and pieces of crack in his pocket on a quiet road, meeting a drug addict?

And Sheepway is guilty. He belongs in jail. I'm not arguing that. I'm just saying this is a case where the victim had a hand in what happened, in the same way that two people getting in a fight are both choosing to enter the fray. There has to be a certain acceptance that you played a part in the outcome, that you took the risks, that you were part of the reason it happened. And that should be taken into account with this case as well.

Up 3 Down 0

Alan Boomer on Dec 8, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Josey Wales comments make him the voice of reason with respect to this news article.

Up 4 Down 0

alex on Dec 8, 2017 at 9:47 am

100% in agreement with Josey here.

Consenting adults want what they want. Drugs, booze, sex, etc. All vices, all for sale. Blaming the dealer on his own death is like blaming the government for getting cirrhosis of the liver from buying and consuming too much booze, or lung cancer form smoking cigarettes.

Just because crack doesn't come prepackaged and with a warning label that it's bad for your health doesn't mean that you are not responsible for your own actions while using or trying to acquire said drug.

In closing, all you need to do is take a stroll downtown near the liquor store or the waterfront at shipyards to see what alcohol addiction does, are you so naive to the fact that you think the people who are down and out will not commit crimes for their alcohol addiction?

Up 2 Down 0

jc on Dec 7, 2017 at 9:18 pm

Survival of the fittest in the criminal world. As long as they don't hurt the innocent.

Up 5 Down 0

Juniper Jackson on Dec 7, 2017 at 5:26 pm

Watching the case: to offer a comment on the court failing to recognize Mr. Brisson's request to be shot to death by virtue of his choice of employment: it's not ok to go around killing people.

As for Mr. Sheepway... he killed a man.. he took a gun to the meeting.. packing and loading a gun really is an indication that one intends to fire it. He intended to rob Mr. Brisson of his product, he was never going to let Mr. Brisson live to come after him. Now, he doesn't want to face any punishment for having taken a life, so he is dragging every single mitigation under the law into his trial...the latest.. boy, was I unhappy as a kid.. yeah..if everyone got to kill people because they had an unhappy childhood there wouldn't be anyone left.. Sheepway is a killer that is going to get a slap on the wrist...maybe justice will be served once he goes to prison.

Up 5 Down 0

Philosophy? on Dec 7, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Cases are tried on criminal law. Good thing too.
A 37 year-old educated employed man with a family and no criminal record to hold him back SHOT and KILLED a 25 year old man who was struggling to bring his life around.

Choices? This guy could have gone for treatment, he had several people who would have supported him. But he lied to all of them about needing help, scamming money from his wife that could be used to support his children or get a bigger house (since that was 'depressing' him).

When PHILOSOPHY is used to determine which human life is worth more than others, you have to wonder who else is on the Unworthy List. Poor people on welfare? mentally challenged?

The worst that will happen to him is he gets fed and clothed at our expense. He can go to school, have visits his his family.
Chris Brisson will never have that, because this guy decided to stick a loaded gun in his face and pull the trigger 3 + times.

Up 5 Down 1

Josey Wales on Dec 7, 2017 at 4:49 pm

Hey yukon56....who you ask?
Why our PM is who.
Never a want for anything, as it was all there his whole life.
Being a trust fund kid to a millionaire daddy as our chief, then having the country handed to you on a CBC gold platter....good gig I suppose.
....how is that for an answer?

Up 7 Down 0

yukon56 on Dec 7, 2017 at 4:26 pm

Who has had a perfect childhood or life ?

Up 0 Down 0

watching the case on Dec 7, 2017 at 3:30 pm

I don't normally blame the victim, but here we have a victim who's career was destroying lives through dealing crack. Chris Brisson didn't care where the money came from or what he was unleashing on the public when Darryl ran out of money. He expected Darryl to perpetrate his crime on someone else.

Isn't there some philosophical basis for attributing at least some responsibility for his fate onto Chris Brisson himself? Can this really be first degree murder in the sense that it would have been if Darryl had plotted to kill someone completely uninvolved in the circumstance that lead to the crime?

I am surprised day after day as I follow this case and that glaring fact is not brought up.

Up 4 Down 0

Josey Wales on Dec 7, 2017 at 3:12 pm

OMFG.....”I think there’s a hole inside Mr. Sheepway, the kind of hole you get when you’re not loved,” he said.

There is certainly a hole in the dead crack dealer, think that will count?
Ooooooo poor Sheepway?
More accurately.....ooooo poor Whitehorse what has become of you?

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.