Daniel Casgrain of Abbotsford was handcuffed and led out of court Thursday morning to begin a four-year prison term in connection with the 2008 beating death of his common-law spouse Hendrikje (Ricky) Priester.
But for tearful family and friends, who watched Casgrain’s every move until he was out of the courtroom, it was not enough.
“He should do way more time,” Priester’s sister Lucy said, after the sentencing in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack. “The family has been under duress for four years – and that’s all he gets?”
Initially charged with murder after Priester’s death on March 24, 2008, Crown counsel reduced the charge to manslaughter on the evidence, and then Casgrain pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of aggravated assault.
Justice Catherine Bruce said in her sentencing Thursday that although Priester suffered four broken ribs and numerous abrasions and contusions during a drunken argument with Casgrain, there was no evidence the injuries directly caused the 52-year-old woman’s death.
However, Bruce said that Casgrain, 57, a chronic alcoholic, was aware of Priester’s “weakened condition” due to a heart condition yet continued beating her after she lost consciousness, showing a “callous disregard” for the woman he had lived with for four years.
The court previously heard that Casgrain repeatedly kicked Priester while his shoes were on. He left her bleeding on the kitchen floor, and paramedics were not called until he telephoned family members the next morning.
“He could have saved her life,” Bruce said. “She didn’t deserve to die in such a brutal way.”
But the Justice said she was bound by sentencing principles and case law to deliver a decision similar to others and proportionate to the offence.
Sentences for aggravated assault range from house arrest to six years, although the maximum for the offence is 14 years.
Bruce said the mitigating factors in Casgain’s case were his full confession to the police, his open apology to the family and the remorse he showed in his statement that “he would not have done this if he had been sober.”
But Bruce added that drunkenness was also an aggravating factor because Casgrain should have known its effect on his temper, and Priester’s “helpless” state at the time and her reliance upon him.
“She should have been able to trust him not to harm her,” Bruce said.
Casgrain’s criminal record includes an earlier assault conviction in 1996, and 10 impaired driving charges, the last one in 2004.
He was also charged in April of this year for resisting arrest after police received a report that a drunken man was causing a disturbance at a clothing store on McCallum Road. When they arrived, the suspect allegedly tried to punch the officer who placed him in handcuffs.