‘Why my innocent daughter? What did she do to deserve this?‘

Breanna Menacho’s father, David, and family members express grief, anger at sentencing hearing in Yellowknife

An undated photo of Breanna Menacho, who was murdered in May 2020. (Photo courtesy of family/Facebook.)

Lisa Zoe can still visualize the silhouette of an RCMP officer at her door in May 2020.

A pair of Mounties had arrived to inform Zoe that one of her five children had been killed in a most gruesome manner.

“Everything was crazy and chaotic on May 6. That was the longest day of my life. As everyone stepped up and pulled into high gear looking and investigating and searching for my daughter, I stood there in denial and disbelief, and in sadness, and in shock,” Zoe told a sentencing hearing in Yellowknife Supreme Court on Wednesday.

“Then, I heard footsteps coming up the back stairs. And I remember seeing a silhouette standing in front of me. I opened the door and I immediately knew. The two RCMP officers came into my home and they sat me down and told me that that they had found Breanna.

 “To this day, sometimes at night I’ll pass bay that back door, and I can still see that silhouette of the male police officer.”

Her daughter Brianna Menacho had been missing since the previous day and searchers had been out looking for the 22 year old across Yellowknife.

Some family travelled some distance to attend. Such as Breanna’s father, David Menacho, who had made the long journey from the Sahtu community of Tulita to attend the sentencing hearing.

“Why my innocent daughter? What did she do to deserve this?” he asked in his statement.

Other family members, including 83-year-old grandmother Charlotte Mantla, listened in on the phone from that community.

All described the victim as empathetic and that she spread “so much love and light in this world” and that she had a way of making people feel special and loved, court heard.

Devon Larabie is the man convicted of second-degree murder and who will be sentenced to life in prison.

With a portrait of a smiling Menacho beaming from two large screens in the city’s largest courtroom, Larabie sat emotionless in a blue suit in the prisoner’s box.

He would steal brief glances of the dozen or more of Menacho’s family and friends as he was escorted into the courtroom.

Many wore the black jerseys created by a family member with a red hand and #justiceforbree printed in all caps.

What the judge is deciding now is if a plea deal for a 10-year period of parole ineligibility corroborates with other similar cases in western Canada.

The maximum would be 25 years, but there is no guarantee the federal parole board would let him out after 10 years.

What court heard Wednesday was that the 32 year old had been on “a weeks-long” crack and alcohol binge before he grabbed a hatchet and sitting beside Brianna on a couch, struck the woman several times, killing her.

Menacho and Larabie were described as acquaintances, who had gathered with five other people in the latter’s Lanky Court apartment for a social get together.

Without being provoked or without any forewarning, Larabie killed Menacho , told the others not to leave (three did) and ended up checking himself into the psychiartric ward at Stanton Territorial Hospital.

Larabie had previously been a patient in that ward from Oct. 30 to Nov. 4 in 2019. Court heard Larabie, who is also Indigenous, had a very difficult upbringing.

Before he went to Stanton again on May 6, 2020, he attempted to conceal evidence by placing Brianna’s body in a cube-style freezer in his apartment. 

When he checked himself out of the unit 12 hours later, he then attempted to recruit help to move the freezer, couch and other evidence out of Yellowknife where he could burn it.

Larabie was out on bail at the time of the murder, with orders that included not to possess any edged weapon and to not consume alcohol.

Court heard police received information of the gathering at Lanky Court and entered Larabie’s apartment at 6:50 p.m. without a search warrant.

That potential error, along with the five witnesses coming to testify, posed problems for the Crown’s ability to proceed with a reasonable likelihood of a conviction. The reluctant witnesses had either died, moved away or had strong addictions to drugs.

Crown attorney Blair MacPherson told court anyone would have trouble testifying: “The subject matter is horrifying – even RCMP officers were profoundly affected.”

Larabie then tried to make a deal where he would plead guilty to manslaughter, but the Crown refused.

The sentencing hearing continues this morning, with the judge expected to make his decision later today.


NOTE: A family member had been wrongly identified in the original story. 

About the Author

James O'Connor
James O’Connor joined CKLB 101.9 FM at the start of 2024, after working as a journalist, photo editor and managing editor at newspapers in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. James also has experience in politics, arts, service clubs and the NWT’s non-profit sector. At this point in his lengthy career, James is thrilled to be working at such a unique media outlet and always welcomes notes from listeners at: james.oconnor@cklbradio.com.