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Nelson sentenced to 18 years for manslaughter and aggravated assault

Nazareth Nelson was sentenced to 15 years in prison for manslaughter for his role in the 2017 beating death of Burt Isaac Wood and three years for attacking two other people with a baseball bat at a Syndicate Avenue home.

THUNDER BAY - A judge called the 2017 killing of Burt Isaac Wood a violent and senseless offence and the sentence handed down to the man responsible reflects the severity of his actions.

In a Thunder Bay Courtroom on Friday, Justice John Fregeau sentenced Nazareth Nelson, 37, to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter and two counts of aggravated assault.

“Mr. Nelson plead guilty to three extremely violent and senseless offences,” Fregeau said when reading his ruling.

According to an agreed statement of facts, on Sept. 10, 2017, Nelson entered a residence on the 200 block of Syndicate Avenue North with a baseball bat and attacked 25-year-old Wood, believing he and another individual had stolen some of his property the night before while consuming alcohol together.

Wood was severely beaten, resulting in his skull, nose, and neck being fractured, as well as hemorrhaging in the brain. The cause of death was determined to be blunt impact head trauma.

Nelson also attacked a 25-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman who were inside the home. The man suffered a skull fracture that required surgery and a collapsed lung. The woman’s jaw was broken and she was found unresponsive by first responders.

The man escaped the house by climbing out of a second-story window onto the roof, where he was spotted by neighbours who then called the police.

Nelson was arrested the same day at gun point. He refused to cooperate with officers and had to be tackled to the ground.

It was found Nelson had both alcohol and drugs in his system at the time of the attack.

Nelson was first charged with second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. In January 2019, he pleaded guilty to the lesser charges of manslaughter and two counts of aggravated assault.

Assistant Crown attorney, Tiffany Boisvert and defense counsel, Michael Hargadon and David Bruzzese, presented a joint sentencing submission to Justice Fregeau, calling for 15 years on the count of manslaughter, and a consecutive sentence of three years on each count of aggravated assault to be served concurrently.  

With pre-sentence custody of 691 days enhanced to 1,037 days, Nelson has another 59 days to serve on the aggravated assault sentence.

Boisvert said the victims of this attack were marginalized and vulnerable people. She added the man and woman who were attacked said prior to the sentencing that they continue to struggle with the injuries they sustained that day.   

The man and woman could not be located to provide victim impact statements and the family of Wood chose not to provide any statements to the court.

During the hearing, Hargadon outlined mitigating and aggravating factors when determining the joint sentencing submission, including Nelson’s difficult upbringing that included physical and sexual abuse and substance abuse problems as outlined in a Gladue Report.  

Nelson also has an extensive criminal record that includes 12 prior convictions for offences such as assault and robbery.

“These facts are aggravating but give insight into Mr. Nelson’s background,” Hargadon told the court. “Despite the presence of a criminal record and the sustained and brutal nature of the crime, he is not an unredeemable person.”

Nelson submitted a hand-written note to the court where he expressed remorse for his actions and for taking a life, as well as apologizing to the first-responders and neighbours who were “impacted by the brutal scene.”

“I am truly sorry,” the note read. “I pray I can achieve your forgiveness.”

As the note was read into the court record, Nelson broke down into tears. When given the opportunity to address the court, he said he wished family and friends of the victims were present so he could apologize.

Justice Fregeau agreed with the joint submission presented by the Crown and defense.

“I am satisfied this joint submission reflects the seriousness of this offence,” he said.

Nelson is also required to submit to a DNA order and is subject to a lifetime weapons prohibition.

Doug Diaczuk

About the Author: Doug Diaczuk

Doug Diaczuk is a reporter and award-winning author from Thunder Bay. He has a master’s degree in English from Lakehead University
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