January 16, 2018

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Teen girl pleads guilty in First Nation beating death, Crown seeking adult sentence

After breaking down in her school counsellor's office and turning herself in to police for her role in a deadly beating that attracted national attention, a 17-year-old Sagkeeng First Nation girl could be sentenced as an adult.

The Crown is seeking an adult sentence for the girl, who was 16 when she and another teenage girl viciously beat 19-year-old Serena McKay and left her outside to freeze to death last April. The extensive injuries McKay suffered — including 19 different head wounds — and her intoxication at the time meant she couldn't protect herself from the cold, court heard.

The 17-year-old girl pleaded guilty to manslaughter Wednesday in the fatal beating, portions of which were videotaped and circulated widely on social media in the days and weeks that followed.

Two days after the beating, the then-16-year-old became emotional in a school counsellor's office, admitting to punching McKay in the nose. The counsellor called RCMP and the teen later surrendered to police.

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John Woods / The Canadian Press Files</p><p>Parts of the attack on Serena McKay were filmed on a cellphone camera and circulated on social media. Friends, family and supporters held a vigil for the 19 year old in April.</p></p>

John Woods / The Canadian Press Files

Parts of the attack on Serena McKay were filmed on a cellphone camera and circulated on social media. Friends, family and supporters held a vigil for the 19 year old in April.

After breaking down in her school counsellor's office and turning herself in to police for her role in a deadly beating that attracted national attention, a 17-year-old Sagkeeng First Nation girl could be sentenced as an adult.

The Crown is seeking an adult sentence for the girl, who was 16 when she and another teenage girl viciously beat 19-year-old Serena McKay and left her outside to freeze to death last April. The extensive injuries McKay suffered — including 19 different head wounds — and her intoxication at the time meant she couldn't protect herself from the cold, court heard.

The 17-year-old girl pleaded guilty to manslaughter Wednesday in the fatal beating, portions of which were videotaped and circulated widely on social media in the days and weeks that followed.

Two days after the beating, the then-16-year-old became emotional in a school counsellor's office, admitting to punching McKay in the nose. The counsellor called RCMP and the teen later surrendered to police.

Late last month, her now-18-year-old co-accused also admitted her guilt, pleading guilty to second-degree murder. Neither of the accused can be publicly identified because they were underage at the time of the killing. Both girls admitted they were drinking with McKay, their high school classmate, at a house party on April 22. An argument broke out about alcohol and McKay was kicked out. That's when the beating started outside the house, court heard. It continued into the night, with witnesses reporting they could hear yelling and a girl being told to "kill yourself."

The now-17-year-old accused would later tell an acquaintance she fought McKay for being disrespectful.

"I don’t want to f—-ing see her alive," she said at one point during the assault, court was told.

The older accused recorded the attack on her cellphone camera and later sent the video to friends; video clips circulated on social media, drawing national attention to the attack at the same time Sagkeeng's grieving community was holding an anti-violence vigil in McKay's honour.

Although the video didn't show the faces of McKay's attackers, one girl can be heard asking the other to take over the beating, calling her by her first name. She held down a crying McKay as the other girl stomped on McKay's face.

Afterward, the two co-accused, along with the older girl's boyfriend, went back into the house, leaving McKay to die.

The 16-year-old accused showed off her bloody clothes on Snapchat with the caption "just chillin'." She would later send panicked messages to her co-accused, asking the other girl to tell police McKay was up and walking before they went inside the house and locked the door, court heard.

"She was found dead bro. Promise me, say when we fought it wasn’t that bad, her nose was just bleeding lots," she wrote in a Facebook message. "Promise me you won’t tell them I fought her deadly, please bro. Say after we closed the door she left, she just walked away."

McKay was reported missing before her body was discovered, with her burned identification cards nearby. The then-17-year-old would later say she wanted to call police the night of the beating, but her boyfriend had taken her phone away. She and her boyfriend later approached other people who had been at the party earlier that night and asked them to lie about what happened. No criminal charges were authorized against the boyfriend.

Members of McKay's family who were present in court Wednesday declined to speak to reporters afterward.

Crown attorney Jennifer Comack said she will argue in June that the teen should be sentenced as an adult for manslaughter. Her defence lawyer, James Wood, told court Wednesday he will challenge the Crown's application, arguing for a youth sentence.

Her co-accused, who pleaded guilty Dec. 22, is expected to be sentenced in April under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, in which the maximum penalty for second-degree murder is seven years.

Both accused were initially charged with second-degree murder.

katie.may@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @thatkatiemay

Read more by Katie May.

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Updated on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 at 3:15 PM CST: Writethrough

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