Accused who failed to show up for verdict convicted of manslaughter

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Tsuut’ina Nation man Rylen Heavenfire was convicted Monday evening of manslaughter in the drunken hunting-related shooting death of his brother.

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And in a rare twist, Justice Michele Hollins issued a warrant for Heavenfire’s arrest moments after jurors rendered their verdict, as the offender failed to return to court for their decision.

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Hollins invoked a rare section of the Criminal Code which allows a judge to continue a trial, even to the point of reaching a verdict, where an accused has absconded from the case.

Court was adjourned shortly after 1 p.m. Monday when Hollins completed her final instructions to the 11-member jury.

But when jurors announced they had reached a verdict around 4:20 p.m., Heavenfire was nowhere to be seen.

Defence counsel Steve Wojick indicated his client had left his cellphone with his grandmother to recharge it and had gone for a walk.

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“There can be no doubt that the accused’s decision to consume alcohol, become intoxicated and handle a shotgun recklessly and carelessly caused Randen Heavenfire’s death,” the prosecutor said.

Pingitore told jurors they did not have to find the shooting was intentional in order to find Heavenfire guilty of manslaughter.

Wojick argued Heavenfire’s conduct after the shooting was inconsistent with him doing anything that led to the death of his older sibling Randen.

Wojick said Heavenfire went to his grandmother’s home after the shooting to inform her of the incident.

“He said to her, Randen got shot, Randen’s dead,” Wojick said, of the Oct. 25, 2019, conversation between the accused and Donna Rowan.

“Call the police,” he told her.

“Rylen was present in the motor vehicle (heading back to the scene) when she called the police. Rylen returned to the scene knowing the police were coming.”

Randen Heavenfire died from a single shotgun blast to his face.

A date for a sentencing hearing will be set once Heavenfire is arrested and brought back to court.

On Twitter: @KMartinCourts

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