Tears flowed in courtroom 202 in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack Tuesday as, one-by-one, victim impact statements were read aloud following Clayton Jacob Warkentin confession that he murdered his mother in 2016.
“I struggle to trust people, as one of the people I trusted most, my baby brother, killed my mother,” Clayton’s older brother Logan said in his victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing after the 21-year-old’s guilty plea to second-degree murder.
“How do I tell my children that their uncle killed their grandmother?”
When he was just 19, Clayton asphyxiated his 51-year-old mother, Lois Unger, to death in her Yarrow home on Feb. 24, 2016 then crudely tried to make it look like a suicide.
While an element of pre-planning may have existed, Crown agreed it wasn’t enough to prove first-degree murder, and Clayton killed his mother in a steroid-cocaine induced rage by forcibly covering her mouth and nose, possibly choking her.
Warkentin was first charged with the first-degree murder of his mother, a charge he was scheduled to go to trial for and had a pre-trial conference set earlier this month. Instead, he pleaded guilty to the lesser-included charge of second-degree murder on Jan. 30, which still comes with a mandatory life sentence.
The only question was parole eligibility of between 10 to 25 years. Crown counsel Grant Lindsey and Warkentin’s lawyer Gary Botting put forward a joint submission for 10 years.
In reading from an agreed statement of facts, Lindsey explained how Warkentin became obsessed with body building at the age of 15. Along with the body building came the use of steroids and human growth hormone. To counteract the soporific effects of the steroids, Clayton was using heavy doses of caffeine, something that later led to cocaine use and his subsequent dealing in the narcotic.
Heavy steroid and cocaine user, Clayton Warkentin told friends he might kill his mother for money he owed to drug dealer. On Feb. 24, 2016 he asphyxiated the 51-year-old to death in her Yarrow home.
— Paul J. Henderson (@PeeJayAitch) January 30, 2018
“Using cocaine did not help his financial situation,” Lindsey told the court, a reality that led Warkentin to desperate measures to fend off real or perceived threats from drug dealers to whom he owed money.
“Clayton felt this left him in a dangerous situation.”
Witnesses in his circle of friends told Crown that Warkentin told them he might kill his mother for the insurance money, a level of planning that led to the charge of first-degree murder. This was later suggested as nothing more than a sick joke, something Lindsey said the Crown accepted in order to allow for the plea to the lesser-included charge of second-degree murder.
Still, Unger was fearful enough of Clayton to have instituted an emergency plan with a close friend, a plan that had to be put into place on at least one evening prior to the murder when he showed up at her house unannounced.
The night of the killing, he was at the home on Yarrow Central Road at Unger’s invitation as a mother-son visit. He had consumed half an “eight ball” (an eighth of an ounce) of cocaine, Lindsey told the court, and as the cocaine wore off, his deep-seeded anger only grew.
While Crown read from an agreed statement of facts, Lindsey said that Clayton did not remember what happened next, although he later agreed to the outline as found by the forensic investigation.
After asphyxiating her to death in the bathroom, he brought his mother’s body to the garage where he affixed a noose around her neck, stabbed her in the neck post-mortem, then placed the knife in her hand.
Unger’s friend who was involved in her emergency plan called police when she did not respond to calls. Police attended on Feb. 24, 2016 around 10 p.m. to a locked door. They came back after 2 a.m. with a locksmith to find her dead in the garage.
Police saw through the bad suicide staging, and the investigation quickly identified Warkentin as the suspect. He was arrested a week later and has been in custody since then.
In court on Jan. 30, Warkentin wore a suit with a dress shirt and black-rimmed glasses. His hair close-cropped, with furrowed brow he looked down towards his feet for most of the proceedings, never once looking at the full gallery.
The 36-seat courtroom was packed to standing room only with extra chairs needed to accommodate the friends and family of the well-loved victim who was involved in the community and her church in Yarrow.
Many victim impact statements from friends and family were read into the record by Crown counsel Rebecca Beeny while Clayton’s older brother Logan and Unger’s brother Mark read their emotional statements themselves.
“The pain that my brother has put me through he will never understand,” an emotional Logan Warkentin said, never looking towards Clayton in the prisoner’s box, adding that if Clayton’s gangster pretensions were more than posing, he was concerned after an eventual release.
“If he is to embrace the lifestyle he portrays, I am seriously concerned for the safety of my family,” Logan said.
After Logan was the extremely emotional statement by Mark Unger, Lois’s brother, who said that it is now hard to even drive past the house in Yarrow where she lived.
Mark said the murder of his sister has led to personal concerns over depression and high blood pressure, and has deeply saddened him. Choking through tears, he concluded: “She was a beautiful person. She did not deserve this.”
Justice Neill Brown was scheduled to finalize the sentence on Feb. 1.