Cheyenne Antoine’s effort to mislead police after killing her friend nearly three years ago was a “complicated endeavor,” a Crown prosecutor told court Monday.

The prosecutor, Robin Ritter, told Saskatoon Provincial Court the 21-year-old Antoine lied to investigators, attempted to use her uncle to corroborate an alibi, and posted a public message to Brittney Gargol’s Facebook page, the same day the 18-year-old’s body was found on the outskirts of Saskatoon, asking if her friend made it home safely.

Antoine, who was originally charged with second-degree murder in the 2015 death of Gargol, pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter and was sentenced to seven years in prison. A charge of offering an indignity to a body in connection with the death was stayed.

Court heard Gargol died by strangulation and was left on a road near Valley Road at some time between 5:21 a.m. and 5:40 a.m. March 25, 2015. A belt worn by Antoine in a photo shared on Facebook just hours before the death matched one found at the scene. Antoine was with Gorgol in the photo.

Ritter said Antoinecontacted police and said she was with Gargol the night she died, but left her friend when Antoine was dropped off at The Lighthouse to visit her uncle. She specifically mentioned to police she and Gargol were in the parking lot of the Colonial Pub and Grill, but surveillance footage showed no signs of the two.

Her uncle, who spoke with police, eventually admitted to investigators his niece told him what to say, according to Ritter. However, some key details were inconsistent between Antoine’s and her uncle’s stories and, when police followed up with the uncle, a different story came out: Antoine and Gargol were partying with two men who strangled Gargol, put a gun to Antoine’s head and forced her to help them.That, too, turned out to be a lie.

It was a “complicated endeavour by this accused to mislead police,” Ritter said.

‘I’ll never forgive myself’

Antoine was arrested in March 2017, just shy of two years after the killing. The arrest followed a tip from a friend who said Antoine mentioned arguing with Gargol and choking her. Police also interviewed a man who said Antoine twice showed up to his house, hysterical about the death, according to Ritter.

Ritter’s statements were never disputed by Antoine’s defence. Antoine said she was too upset to directly speak in court Monday, but her lawyer, Lisa Watson, did read a statement on her behalf.

“I’ll never forgive myself. Nothing I say or do will ever bring her back,” the statement read. “I’m really, really sorry. It’s wrong and shouldn’t have happened.”

Watson told court Antoine grew up in foster care and was mentally, physically and sexually abused. She also said both Antoine’s biological parents went to residential school and had addictions issues.

Antoine became addicted to opioids and methamphetamine, and became involved in criminal activity, after the death of her biological mom, with whom she was reconnecting.

She and Gargol had been drinking and doing drugs the night of Gargol’s death. Antoine doesn’t remember what happened, and she can’t explain to Gargol’s family why she killed her, but she’s still affected by the event, according to Watson.

“The fact that she was responsible for her best friend’s death weighs heavily on her,” Watson said.

The lawyer didn’t speculate on motive.She said Antoine told police she was sexually assaulted a month prior to Gargol’s death and that her drug and alcohol use increased after she brought forward the allegations.  

“I think that the word motive doesn’t have much relevance in this particular case,” she told media outside court. “This is just a tragic situation where drug and alcohol use exploded. My client had some very deep-seeded personal issues that she was not dealing with and unfortunately, for whatever reason, we’ll never know, they turned into a very tragic situation for all involved.”  

‘So much anger and sadness’

A Kleenex box circulated the courtroom as Gargol’sfamily members shared victim impact statements. Several people cried.

Gargol’s stepmother told court Gargol’s youngest sister, who was five at the time of the killing, cries every few days, afraid she will forger her sister. The girl brings Gargol’s photo to her classroom for show-and-tell.

Gargol’s uncle described his niece as a “beautiful angel,” and prosecutor Ritter was tasked with reading a statement from Gargol’s dad when the statement became too emotional for the father.

“I feel so much anger and sadness about how short her life was,” the statement from her father read.

Gargol was someone who made others feel better about themselves and who had a smile that lit up a room, according to her family.

“The pain is so dark and so intense it’s hard to breath,” Jennifer Gargol, Brittney’s aunt, said.

Heruncle told media outside court the day brought some closure for the family.

“Today we learned some details that will help with closure regarding this incident. Brittney was a wonderful young person that didn't deserve this and we truly deeply miss her every day,” Al Gargol said.

Both the defence and the Crown requested the seven-year sentence, which was accepted by Judge Marilyn Gray. Gray told Antoine to honour Gargol by becoming a positive, productive member of society.

--- written by Kevin Menz and based on reporting by Angelina Irinici