A Big Tancook Island man who was involved in a hunting incident 15 months ago that left a father of two dead, pleaded guilty to careless use of a firearm in Bridgewater provincial court on Thursday.
Christopher Adam Stevens, 32, was scheduled to begin trial over the Oct. 28, 2016, incident that occurred while the two men were deer hunting in Big Tancook Island, but his lawyer (Thomas Feindel) informed the court of Stevens’ change of plea.
The sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 12.
The charge carries with it a maximum two-year prison sentence for first-time offenders but the Crown opted to pursue a lesser summary conviction. The maximum sentence in this case is six months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.
Details of the day in question were not disclosed on Thursday but will be laid out during the sentencing hearing.
Feindel would not comment on the case, saying he didn’t have permission from Stevens do so.
Crown prosecutor Emma Baasch, who opened discussions with Feindel a couple of weeks ago, said she wasn’t surprised by Stevens’ decision to plead guilty.
“The case was one in which, like all cases, the Crown has a realistic prospect of conviction and had a realistic prospect of conviction in those circumstances,” said Baasch. “A guilty plea is never really a surprise.”
At this point, the case remains shrouded in mystery. RCMP have been tight-lipped in revealing details of its investigation. What is known is the name of the victim, Barry Slaunwhite, and that the two men knew each other but were not hunting together. The person who was responsible for the shooting made the call to 911.
Slaunwhite’s obituary says the 52-year-old man’s death was a result “of a tragic hunting accident.”
“He had a passion for hunting, fishing and all things outdoors,” states the obituary. “Above all else Barry loved his family, friends and spending time at his cottage on Big Tancook Island. He was especially proud of his grandson Carter whom he loved with all his heart, he treasured every moment he had with him.”
Baasch wouldn’t say whether Stevens’ change in plea would influence the Crown’s sentence recommendation. His punishment could be influenced by a pre-sentence report conducted by Stevens’ probation officer.
“The circumstances of the offender will permit us the best approach to follow in this matter.
“The Crown will be making a recommendation and we may come to an agreement with the defence on what that recommendation is.”
She also touched on the tragedy of the case.
“We’re dealing with a tragic outcome and an activity that’s so widely enjoyed in Nova Scotia,” she said.
“It has impacted a great many people but the facts of the case can’t be discussed until March 12.