“I want to say something to the three of you today,” Saskatchewan Justice Gerry Allbright told the grieving family members of murder victim Mark Douglas Jonson, 61.
“Mark Jonson is not just a name to me. He was a person loved. I have a picture of Mark in front of me,” said Justice Allbright, adding that the victim’s daughter and two sisters brought Mark to life through their compelling victim impact statements.
“He was a man who was loved. He was a man who cared about others in society and he cared about those who were down and out,” said Justice Allbright in Battlefords Court of Queen’s Bench March 4.
“Without you sharing those heartfelt and true comments with me I would not have been able to see the man behind the photograph and I’m thankful for that and I’m sorry for your loss,” said Justice Allbright.
Victim impact statements were read by Jonson’s daughter Lydia Holteniuk, and his sisters Lynette Jonson and Myrnel Williams. The three appeared by phone.
Myrnel said her brother Mark Jonson taught her a lot – including his difficulties - during his life.
“Sometimes the best teachers are people whose pasts have been a bit flawed because they can understand the human experience.”
Lydia spoke about how painful and difficult it was to have her father brutally murdered. The court heard that Jonson was a generous and kind person who would help anyone. Jonson’s family said he struggled but was overcoming the challenges in his life and still had dreams to fulfill.
A judge and jury trial for Nicholas Buck was previously scheduled to run Feb. 22 to March 5, 2021, but, instead, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder March 4.
In July 2019, twenty-three-year-old Buck was arrested and charged with first-degree murder for the death of Jonson.
Battlefords RCMP found Jonson deceased in a home on the 1500 block of 100 Street on July 5, 2019. RCMP Major Crime Unit North and North Battleford Forensic Identification Services investigated the murder. They issued a warrant for Buck’s arrest on July 11, 2019. He was arrested two days later. Police also arrested David Keller, 48, on July 11, 2019. Keller’s judge and jury trial is scheduled for October 2021 in Battlefords Court of Queen’s Bench.
North Battleford Crown Prosecutor Steven Laroque said Jonson died the night of July 2 or the early morning of July 3, 2019.
Laroque said there are several aggravating circumstances including the brutal nature of the senior’s murder in his home where he had the right to feel and be safe.
For mitigating factors, Laroque said Buck is young and was victimized as a youth.
“Gladue applies in this case, which requires special consideration.”
Laroque said Buck cooperated with the police and confessed. In addition, by pleading guilty he spared the family from going through a lengthy trial and helped move the case through the court system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Defence Brian Pfefferle reiterated the significant Gladue factors present in Buck’s situation.
“He has had a difficult life and was born into tragic circumstances,” said Pfefferle, adding that Buck suffered abuse, poverty and racism.
A clean-cut looking Buck appeared by CCTV from the correctional centre wearing grey prison attire. Gone were the dreadlocks in the 2019 police-issued photo.
Justice Allbright asked Buck if he had anything to say before sentencing, telling Buck that he is soft-spoken and to speak as loud as he can.
Buck held his head slightly down throughout the proceedings but stood up when he delivered an apology to the victim’s family.
“I’m not apologizing because I have to, I’m apologizing because I’m sincerely…” Buck said as he struggled to get more words out, many which were inaudible between his audible cries.
Justice Allbright acknowledged Buck’s apology before sentencing him.
“Buck’s background is a troubled background. The other side is the gravity of the level of violence visited on this poor man.
“I sentence you to life without eligibility for parole until you serve at least 12 years,” said Justice Allbright.
“In life everyone makes mistakes, some mistakes are very tragic,” added Justice Allbright. “You know well the tragic mistake you made that day when you caused the loss of life of Mr. Jonson.
“You have then made some good decisions since then, the lengthy statement to police about your involvement in this matter, you come before the court entering a plea of guilty acknowledging the terrible harm your actions have caused and you have expressed remorse to the family members. I truly hope that your life proceeds in a way that can bring some honour to the memory, in this case, to Mark Jonson.
“You have had a difficult upbringing and background,” added Justice Allbright. “That should help you to go forward from here. One of the family members said 'sometimes the best teachers are people whose pasts have been a bit flawed because they can understand the human experience.' You, Mr. Buck, will hopefully follow in that, the very wise words the family member said.”