A drunken argument led to a vicious on-camera beating that shocked a Manitoba First Nation and attracted national attention.
An 18-year-old woman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Friday for her role in the death of 19-year-old Serena McKay, who was found dead outside a home on Sagkeeng First Nation in April.
The guilty plea means details of what happened the night McKay was killed are coming to light, along with the accused’s initial lies to police and her efforts to play down her responsibility.
McKay likely froze to death, left helpless after the beating.
Autopsy results revealed in court Friday show she was incapacitated by alcohol.
The accused can’t be identified because she was 17 at the time of McKay’s death.
Another teenage girl from Sagkeeng, who was 16 at the time of the incident, has not entered a plea and has a court date in January.
All three girls went to high school together and were at a house party April 22, when McKay and the 16-year-old accused allegedly got into an argument about alcohol, Crown attorney Joel Myskiw told court.
The then-17-year-old accused took McKay into a bathroom to try to calm her down, "as she did not want a fight to break out," he said.
McKay continued to be "aggressive" and was eventually kicked out of the party, accused of being disrespectful, court heard. That’s when the beating began.
One of the girls allegedly kicked and punched McKay, who was on the ground, crying, while the 17-year-old accused filmed the attack with her cellphone.
At some point in the video — part of which was later circulated on social media — one of the girls asks the other to take over the beating.
"I don’t want to f—-ing see her alive," the 16-year-old allegedly said.
In a second video clip, the 17-year-old’s boots are seen stomping on McKay’s swollen face.
After McKay’s body was found the next evening, along with a pile of her burned identification cards, the 17-year-old accused asked a friend to switch shoes with her before she went to talk to the police. She initially told investigators she had left the party before the fight broke out.
However, her friend told police about the boots.
"After her boots were seized and the videos were reviewed, she was arrested for murder," Myskiw said.
The 17-year-old gave a second statement to police, in which she claimed she acted in self-defence.
Court heard she and her boyfriend went back into the house after the beating, leaving McKay on the ground and locking the door behind them.
The 17-year-old locked the door because "she was afraid that McKay would come after them."
She wanted to call the police, but her boyfriend took her cellphone away, court heard.
In the hours before McKay’s body was discovered, the accused sent the video to friends on Facebook and appeared to brag about the fight. Later, she and her boyfriend asked other party goers to lie about what happened, court heard.
Provincial court Judge Rocky Pollack accepted the teen’s guilty plea to second-degree murder Friday.
Her lawyer, Greg Brodsky, told the judge her actions were "reckless."
"She joined in on a beating that was extensive, and she shouldn’t have joined in in the fashion that she did," he said.
Brodsky said he will present 28 character references to the court on his client’s behalf when he asks the sentencing judge for less than the maximum youth sentence of seven years.
Although the Crown had announced its intention to seek adult sentences for both accused — which would mean they’d face life in prison — the suggestion didn’t come to pass Friday.
A sentencing hearing is set for April.
McKay’s death attracted national attention after videos of the beating appeared online.
It prompted a call to action and a stand against violence in Sagkeeng, a community of about 3,350 located 140 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
Hundreds of mourners attended a vigil on the First Nation in McKay’s honour last spring.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.
Updated on Saturday, December 23, 2017 at 7:38 AM CST: Edited
8:25 AM: Headline changed.