Jesse Seymour's family struggled Wednesday to make sense of a sudden turn of justice that saw accused murderer Torbin Alec plead guilty to manslaughter.
Alec's trial on second-degree murder ended on the third day, when he stood to plead guilty instead to the lesser charge of manslaughter following an agreement between the Crown and defence.
Fred Seymour, a TIB councillor and Jesse's father, spoke at a prayer circle of 30 family and friends in the courthouse lobby following the dramatic turn in the courtroom minutes before.
The Crown case appeared to weaken after testimony by two key witnesses, close friends of Jesse, differed in key areas from what they told police at the time.
Defence lawyer Jeremy Jensen highlighted those differences in cross-examination.
"They take our initial statements - statements we give to the police and they're close to the same," Fred Seymour said, standing as part of a circle of family and friends holding hands and listening to prayers.
"They turn and twist it. We saw it. Some day there will be justice."
Jensen told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Dev Dley there will be a joint submission from Crown and defence. While lawyers were tight lipped, the Seymour family was told lawyers will ask for six years jail, minus the 15 months Alec has spent in jail since his arrest in July last year.
"A so-called brother getting six years, less time served. Is that justice in our eyes? I don't think so," Fred Seymour told the circle.
The dramatic turn began as the trial was set to resume Wednesday afternoon.
Special prosecutor Rob Bruneau took aside Fred and Jesse's mother, Sandra, as well as the mother of his child, Theresa Point, who is the daughter of former B.C. lieutenant governor Steven Point.
Tears and quiet sobbing began to spread among the family outside the courtroom before Alec's plea was entered.
Jesse and Alec were childhood friends. Alec was adopted as a child into the family of former TIB staffer and respected elder John Jules, who died in 2010.
Following the plea, members of the two estranged families independently mentioned the danger of alcohol and drugs. Evidence arose at the trial that both Jesse and Alec were drinking; drugs were also in the Columbia Street home, thought to be ecstasy.
"They're so angry; I don't blame them," said a weeping Irene Johnson, Alec's grandmother who sat alone for much of the trial.
"My heart hurts so bad for these people."
Johnson spoke quietly to a reporter as she left the courthouse swiftly after the close of the trial.
"That's what does it: alcohol and drugs. Indians know they shouldn't drink," said the First Nations woman from Fort St. James.
"One life is gone. You might as well say two lives are gone. That kid will never be the same. He's got it in his head he's taken a life and that will stay with him forever.
Moments later in the prayer circle, Fred Seymour blamed drugs and booze.
"My mom kept telling me, you have to quit that drinking, quit these drugs," he told the gathering, also saying "when your young ones party, you have to be there for each other, watch each other's back."
The stabbing happened after Seymour and Alec got into a fistfight, Jesse warning his childhood buddy that he had no chance to go home that night with his cousin.
The Crown's initial theory was Alec pulled the knife in what was otherwise a typical fistfight.
A pathologist testified that Seymour was stabbed six times, two wounds to his heart killing him instantly. While is it clear that Alec stabbed Jesse to death, doubts about intent and the possibility of self-defence were raised early in the trial.
Crown witness Nicole Jones Dodginghorse, a friend of Jesse's, said during the trial that initially Jesse was on top of his friend, but events quickly turned with Alec on top.
But the defence highlighted a statement she gave to police that night, in which she said, "Jesse was hitting him.
"I think he might have whipped out the knife when he was getting beat up because Jesse had him pretty good there for a bit," she told police.
Jesse was over six-feet tall witnesses said, compared to the diminutive Alec.
Photographic evidence was also entered showing the jagged bottleneck from Jesse's mickey of tequila in the area where the two men fought. Jones Dodginghorse testified it dropped on the step - away from the fight.
The defence also found inconsistencies in evidence of the other eyewitness and Seymour family member Shawn Bottle.
Bottle testified the only discussion of booze with Jesse that night was while they were in the car en route to the liquor store. But Jensen then read into the courtroom a text from Bottle to Jesse, which read, "You picking up shit?"
Bottle claimed the term meant beer, contradicting his earlier statement that discussion about booze was limited to the car ride.
"I suggest to you that 'shit' means drugs. You were asking Jesse if he was picking up drugs," the defence lawyer put to Bottle during cross-examination.
Jesse and Alec were both 29 and grew up together. But their lives took different paths.
Alec has a criminal record for both violence and breaches of court orders, while Jesse was a youth worker for the band at the time of his death.
A date will be set Nov. 25 for sentencing. Alec has asked for a Gladue report, a special pre-sentence report that highlights aboriginal factors in sentencing.