THUNDER BAY – Jeffrey Achneepineskum has been sentenced to a combined 15 years for a robbery gone wrong that left a father of three dead, as well as his role in last year’s district jail riot.
Achneepineskum was sentenced in both cases at the Thunder Bay Courthouse on Friday, 10 years for the slaying of 51-year-old Rene Sortolovo and five years for the jail incident.
The 24-year-old in February pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the killing of Sortolovo, who was found dead in his North Marks Street apartment on Oct. 19, 2014.
After factoring in credit for pre-sentence custody, Acheepineskum will spend seven years and 232 days behind bars for the manslaughter charge.
As well, he pleaded guilty to four counts after being charged in the Dec. 7, 2015 uprising at the Thunder Bay District Jail that resulted in a correctional officer being taken hostage for several hours and inmates gaining control of the second floor.
The five-year sentence will be served consecutively, meaning Achneepineskum has more than 12 years in jail.
The body of Sortolovo was found by city police officers who were called to check on his well-being by the mother of his children because she had not been able to communicate with him for the previous two days.
According to the agreed statement of facts, in Sortolovo’s bedroom officers found a cellphone belonging to an underage female, who was in a relationship with Achneepineskum.
Investigators discovered a text message exchange that began on the night of Oct. 17, 2014 where Sortolovo attempted to solicit sexual services. They negotiated for several hours, finally agreeing to meet at the Brodie Street branch of the public library at 2 a.m. with her returning to his residence three hours later.
Evidence presented during the preliminary inquiry indicated the female, who has been charged with second-degree murder, let Achneepineskum and one other individual into Sortolovo’s apartment. Achneepineskum then proceeded to attack Sortolovo.
An autopsy determined Sortolovo died from multiple blunt trauma to the head.
Forensic analysis found evidence of the victim’s blood on Achneepineskum’s left shoe.
The mother of Sortolovo’s children, one teenager and two adolescents, said she was “a little frustrated” with the sentence.
“My children will still be very young. They won’t get to see their dad in seven years. They never will,” she said. “He was a good dad. He wasn’t perfect but my children really depended upon them. He loved them a lot. He spent a lot of time with them.”
Crown prosecutor Rob Kozak said the nature of the crime led to the plea and joint sentencing submission.
“The Crown’s position is that this man was prepared to take responsibility for killing Rene Sortolovo,” Kozak said.
“He committed this action out of greed and looked to rob Mr. Sortolovo. His actions extended beyond what he wanted to get involved in and of course that makes him responsible for the killing but perhaps not to the level of second-degree murder.”
During the riot at the district jail, Achneepineskum was one of five inmates to rush the guards and force them into the hallway, allowing another inmate to capture a correctional officer.
Achneepineskum was seen smashing surveillance cameras, preventing outside staff from monitoring what has happening in the cell block.
He also obtained an inmate record sheet for another inmate, reading aloud that the man was a sexual offender which led to multiple people assaulting that inmate.
Defence lawyer Gil Labine said Achneepineskum did not directly cause physical harm to anybody during the riot.
“(There is) no evidence he did anything more than break surveillance cameras and seek out if (the inmate) was a sexual offender,” Labine told the court.
Kozak said the impact the riot had on everybody involved with the facility necessitated a strong, denunciatory sentence.
“You have the staff who have no choice but to be there in that environment and you have inmates who have no choice but to be there in that environment and they too certainly would have been harmed in those minutes and hours but the weeks and months that followed,” Kozak said.