Editor's note: This article has been updated to remove the name of a victim who was later covered by a publication ban.
Yellowknife’s courthouse saw an unusually dense concentration of alleged murderers today, with three accused killers appearing before a territorial court judge on the same day.
The most high-profile was Denecho King, 23, who is facing one count of first degree murder and one of attempted murder, following an early morning attack in late 2014 that left 39-year-old John Wifladt dead and Colin Digness, then 41, with serious facial injuries.
King appeared via video link from the North Slave Correctional Centre to finalize dates for what is expected to be an unusually long preliminary inquiry. Starting Nov. 21, the inquiry is scheduled to take 11 full days, ending on Dec. 14.
“The Crown is going to be bringing a lot of witnesses. I expected several a day,” says Jay Bran, King’s defence counsel.
What we know:
At around 5:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, Dec. 14, 2014, police found long-time friends Wifladt, a diamond polisher, and Digness, a clerk at the now-defunct Videoland, unresponsive and “both suffering from serious injuries” in their third-floor apartment at Sunridge Place on 51 Ave. Wifladt died at Stanton Hospital later that day, while Digness was transported to a hospital in Edmonton, where he spent the better part of a month in recovery.
No one was arrested in relation to the incident for several months, though rumours abounded that the attack had involved ornamental samurai swords, which Digness kept in his apartment. This has never been officially confirmed, though NNSL reported that, according to Digness, “two swords, which he owned and described as toys, were missing when he returned home from the hospital.”
King was arrested and charged with the murder and assault in early May, 2015 while already inside the North Slave Correctional Centre, where he was in custody after allegedly robbing a taxi driver in late February.
It isn’t the first time King has been in court for violent attacks. In July 2013, he was sentenced to 22-months in prison for attacking a man in Fort Providence with a machete while the two were “playing video games and smoking crack cocaine.”
There are many other assaults on King’s lengthy court record. In January 2011, he spent two months in jail for trying to assault a security guard with a lamp and uttering death threats. Later that year, he was given 12 months for assault causing bodily harm.
For his upcoming trial, King has elected to be tried by judge and jury in the NWT’s Supreme Court.
Appearing just after King, also by video link from the correctional centre, was Keven Mantla, who is charged with first degree murder, attempted murder and aggravated assault for an attack in September 2015 on Mantla’s former girlfriend and her new partner. Mantla hasn’t entered a plea yet, but will appear in court again on Aug. 23 to declare how he wishes to proceed with the trial.
What we know:
The early morning attack on Sept. 28 took place in an apartment in the Lanky Court building, near the Esso gas station. The incident left Elvis Lafferty dead while another victim had to be evacuated to Edmonton for stab wounds. Mantla, according to an RCMP press release from the time, turned himself in.
According to the CBC, Mantla “has a history of violent behavior, including previous convictions of assault, sexual assault, and assaulting a peace officer.”
“In 2014, he served about 100 days in jail for breaking a court order to stay away from a residence.”
Stanley Abel Jr:
Earlier in the day, Stanley Abel Jr., 30, appeared in court in person to set a date for a preliminary inquiry. This will happen over two days on Nov. 9 and 10. He’s been charged with murder of his uncle, Herman Abel, which took place in Dettah in March of this year.
What we know:
The police received a call shortly after 4 a.m. on March 30, 2016, about a disturbance at a home in Dettah. When they arrived they found a “grievously injured adult male” who was transported to Stanton Hospital. Abel Jr. had fled the scene by the time police arrived, but was taken into custody later that day at a Yellowknife residence and charged with aggravated assault. Herman Abel died in hospital that evening, and the assault charge was upgraded to murder.