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Story of Lytton manslaughter comes to close 15 years later

July 15, 2014 - 7:08 PM

KAMLOOPS - A man who beat his friend to death and successfully hid the body in a shallow grave for nearly 13 years before finally being discovered, was sentenced to nearly eight year in jail, in Kamloops Supreme Court Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier this year, a jury convicted William Robert Smith, born 1967, of beating Sandy Charlie to death in 1999 while intoxicated. Smith kept Charlie’s body hidden by placing it in a makeshift grave near Lytton. Charlie's body remained covered until an excavator operator discovered the remains in 2011.

Charlie’s family suffered further grief a year after Charlie's death when Sandy Cleghorn, Charlie's son, died of exposure while he searched for his father.

Justice Ian Meiklem said Charlie’s death at the hands of Smith “left (Charlie’s family) in the darkness, anguishing over his disappearance,” until the body was found.

Smith appeared emotionless and stared forward during his sentencing. He broke his stare only a few times to glance at Charlie’s family members who filled one half of the gallery. The family remained calm during the hearing, but some broke down outside of court after the sentencing concluded. 

In all those years following his lethal assault on Charlie, Smith had further offences which included four assaults. After Charlie’s remains were discovered and identified, RCMP conducted an undercover Mr. Big operation and lured Smith to join a false gang. To impress an officer posing as a crime boss, Smith confessed to killing Charlie.

Meiklem reviewed Smith’s prison behaviour reports which described him as a “quiet, polite hardworking inmate.” But he indicated Smith’s further assaults and not-guilty pleas following Charlie’s death showed a lack of remorse. After he was found guilty, Smith apologized to Charlie's family, which Meiklem hopes the family “took at least some small comfort from.”

During the trial and sentence hearings, Don Campbell, Smith’s lawyer, argued his past history of drug and alcohol abuse influenced his behaviours the night Charlie died.

Meiklem said while Smith’s trouble with alcohol was a factor in Charlie’s death, prison reports suggest he is not motivated to attend alcohol counselling.

“He still has a good way to go at taking responsibility for his actions and acknowledging the negative impact of his cavalier attitude,” Meiklem said.

Smith will serve a six-year sentence for his manslaughter conviction with a consecutive 20-month sentence for interfering with Charlie's body. Smith, with time credited has served nearly three years of his sentence since his arrest. 

He will continue to serve a further four years and approximately nine months in jail.

To contact a reporter for this story, email gbrothen@infotelnews.ca, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

-This story was updated at 10:16 a.m. on July 17 to include more information on jail time.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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