It’s likely no one will ever know exactly why Brittney Gargol was killed. Even her killer, Cheyenne Antoine, doesn’t know what happened.
Antoine, 21, was sentenced to seven years in prison Monday afternoon after pleading guilty to manslaughter, ending the legal proceedings around Gargol’s mysterious death.
The 18-year-old’s body was found off Cedar Villa Estates Road, just southwest of Saskatoon, on March 25, 2015. It took several days before she was identified after photos of her tattoos were widely shared on social media.
It took two years for police to charge Antoine, described as Gargol’s best friend, with second-degree murder.
Crown prosecutor Robin Ritter agreed to accept a guilty plea to manslaughter, avoiding a trial in the case.
Lisa Watson, Antoine’s defence counsel, told court the last thing her client remembered was Gargol taking her phone.
Tests showed both women were intoxicated at the time of Gargol’s death, and it’s believed a combination of drugs and alcohol led to gaps in Antoine’s memory.
A police investigation found Antoine strangled Gargol to death with a belt she was seen wearing in a photo the two took together on the same evening.
“I’ll never forgive myself,” Antoine said through Watson. “I’m really sorry, this should never have happened.”
Members of Gargol’s family cried as they struggled to read victim impact statements during the sentencing hearing, often passing their words to Ritter to read.
The court heard how Gargol’s smile could light up a room, but that her death has left many of her relatives struggling.
“The pain is so dark,” said aunt Jennifer Gargol. “I’ve watched my family be destroyed.”
Her father said he plays over the last day he could have seen his daughter in his mind, when he wasn’t home to fix something on her car.
“That was my last chance to hug her,” he said.
Several of the family members also turned their attention towards Antoine directly.
“You were her friend. She loved you, she respected you and she trusted you,” Gargol’s step-mother Kristi Wickenhauser said.
“And instead you decided to wrap a belt around her throat and squeeze until you ended her life.”
COURT HEARS OF HISTORY OF ABUSE
Antoine’s sentence falls roughly in the middle of possible punishments for manslaughter, which range from four to 12 years behind bars.
Ritter and Watson both pointed to the killer’s troubled past as a mitigating factor in the sentence.
Antoine was born to parents who both went to residential schools, and became a ward of the province at the age of two. She was put into foster care when she was four years old, and endured a decade of physical and emotional abuse.
By the time she was 12, Antoine began racking up a criminal record — starting with stealing her foster parents’ car on multiple occasions in attempts to run away.
At 14, she reconnected with her mother but was exposed to heavy alcohol and drug use. A year later, her mother died and Antoine began bouncing between institutions, group homes and other relatives’ homes.
“She has every Gladue factor you could imagine,” Ritter said. “This young woman has issues … and because of those issues, she is dangerous.”
Watson said her client acknowledged the problems she’s had, noting Antoine has already applied for several addiction assistance programs and is working on a high school diploma.
The lawyer added the supports available to inmates should help Antoine become a positive member of society in the future.
Judge Marilyn Gray urged Antoine to use her time in custody wisely.
“Honour your friend by becoming a positive, productive woman. You owe it to her to perservere,” she said.