3½ years in prison sought for man who fatally stabbed suspected thief

Alexander Matthew Peters, 36, of Elsipogtog First Nation died in that community on Oct. 7, 2022.  (Alexander Peters/Facebook - image credit)
Alexander Matthew Peters, 36, of Elsipogtog First Nation died in that community on Oct. 7, 2022. (Alexander Peters/Facebook - image credit)

A judge has been asked to sentence an Elsipogtog First Nation man to 3½ years in prison for killing a 36-year-old from the eastern New Brunswick community almost two years ago.

A sentencing hearing began Thursday in Moncton for 47-year-old Nibogtoog Leonard Francis. He had pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the Oct. 7, 2022, death of Alexander Matthew Peters.

Court of King's Bench Justice Christa Bourque will issue her sentencing decision Friday afternoon.

Francis and his father, Harvey Francis, were originally jointly charged with second-degree murder, though the charge against the father was dropped in March as the son pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Manslaughter is a homicide that's not intentional. Crown prosecutor Sylvie Godin-Blanchard said the case falls between near accident and near murder.

The Crown and defence lawyers jointly requested a 3½-year sentence, though Francis will serve less than that. The lawyers requested he be credited 1½ days for each day spent in custody since his arrest. That would reduce the sentence he has left to serve to 13 months.

The Moncton courthouse shown on May 12, 2022.
The Moncton courthouse shown on May 12, 2022.

A sentencing hearing for Francis will conclude Friday in Moncton when Justice Christa Bourque issues her decision. (Shane Magee/CBC)

On Thursday, Godin-Blanchard read an agreed statement of facts to the judge outlining the details of the crime.

The prosecutor said on the night of Oct. 6, 2022, Peters and his girlfriend, Shyleigh Simon, were drinking at a bar with a friend until it closed. Peters and Simon walked by Nibogtoog Francis's home and decided to go inside.

Francis wasn't home at the time but he returned just after 3 a.m. to find the two. The three consumed drugs in the living room. At one point, the Crown said, Francis accused the two of stealing from him. They accused Francis of stealing drugs from them. Later, Peters and Simon went into Francis's bedroom.

Believed they were stealing

Francis believed they were tossing his things out of a window and texted his half-sister saying his home had been broken into. At around 5:40 a.m., Francis's father was contacted and told his son needed help with a break-in.

"Harvey Francis was asked to bring a firearm," the Crown said, but he brought a metal baseball bat.

Just before 6 a.m., the father found his son holding what the prosecutor described as a knife about 20 centimetres long. The father and son walked to the bedroom with the weapons, where Simon and Peters were in bed, partially dressed.

The father and son touched the two with the weapons, telling them to leave. Peters reacted by jumping up "in a fighting stance."

The father, the Crown said, told his son not to use the knife and swung the baseball bat at Peters, who grabbed it. The father fell, and Francis began to fight with Peters with the knife.

"Nibogtoog Francis was aware of Peters's violent past and had serious fear for his safety and that of his father," Godin-Blanchard said, though no other details about that past were mentioned in court.

Multiple stab wounds

Godin-Blanchard read a long list of Peters's injuries, including cuts and stab wounds to his arms, head and back. A stab wound to his neck severed the jugular, which a pathologist determined caused his death.

Harvey Francis called 911 to report what happened. The judge heard Nibogtoog Francis gave a lengthy statement to police.

Godin-Blanchard said the 3½  year sentence would be appropriate in the circumstances and within the range of similar cases.

She said Francis knew the possible risks of his actions.

She said the weapons, amount of force used and extent of Peters's injuries were aggravating factors the judge should consider. Mitigating factors include the statement to police and his guilty plea.

"This would have been a lengthy and complex trial. This would not have been an easy case for the Crown," Godin-Blanchard said. That trial was set to start in the fall.

Three victim impact statements were provided to the judge, but not read aloud in court.

Godin-Blanchard said one was from Peters's aunt and another was from his foster mother, who described a physical and emotion toll resulting from his death.

Defence lawyer Gilles Lemieux said Francis struggled with drugs and alcohol and became "a poster child of what's wrong" in the community.

"Is there a right side in this? No, not really. Lives have been turned upside down," Lemieux said.

He said Francis's home was burned and would likely have to live with his family once released. He hopes to resume lobster and crab fishing, Lemieux said.

I'm not really a violent person - Nibogtoog Francis

Francis asked the judge to not impose a mandatory firearms ban so he could hunt.

"I'm not a threat to my community or my people," Francis said. "I'm not really a violent person."

After the lawyers discussed the issue, the judge said the law requires her to impose the firearms ban with the sentence but that he could apply later to have it lifted.

Francis turned to the public gallery and addressed Peters's family.

"I'm truly sorry for what happened," Francis said. "If there was something I could change to bring back your loved one, I would."