What began as an argument over a bag of chips and escalated into a beating death outside a Victoria, B.C., shelter has landed a 29-year-old man in prison for nearly eight years.
Matthew Scott Pelkey has been sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court to seven years and eight months in prison for the December 2008 manslaughter of Sandjay Ablak.
He'll also be under a long-term supervision order, allowing the National Parole Board to monitor him for up to 10 years past his sentence.
Pelkey was charged with manslaughter, pleaded guilty in September 2010 and has since remained in custody.
Noting the "significant record" Pelkey accumulated since 2004, the Crown wanted him declared a dangerous offender, which could have resulted in an indeterminate prison sentence.
While Justice Malcolm Macaulay agreed Pelkey is a dangerous offender, he chose a general jail sentence instead, taking into consideration the time Pelkey has already served.
"I intend to impose a jail sentence that is at or near the upper limit for the offence ... so that there is ample time for rehabilitative programming tailored to Pelkey's cognitive abilities and aboriginal status," said Macaulay, in his reasons for sentence released Monday.
"It will also afford the time necessary for the parole board to monitor and assess his progress."
Macaulay noted Pelkey's family and personal history are marked by abuse, and alcohol has been "the most significant contributing factor" to his offences throughout life.
According to court documents, Pelkey "intervened unnecessarily" in an argument over a bag of chips between a woman and Ablak near Victoria's Streetlink emergency shelter in December 2008.
Pelkey punched Ablak in the face, Ablak fell to the ground, and the woman's boyfriend retrieved the chips and backed away.
The assault then continued, with Pelkey kicking and stomping Ablak in the upper body or head until the woman's boyfriend told him to stop.
The documents state Pelkey and another person then went through Ablak's pockets before dragging the man off the road.
Pelkey began walking away, but police in a passing car stopped and arrested him for being intoxicated in a public place.
Ablak regained consciousness at the scene but was taken to hospital where he lost consciousness and died.
The manslaughter conviction is not Pelkey's first brush with the law.
Court records show that since May 2004, Pelkey has been convicted of numerous offences, such as failing to comply with court orders, aggravated assault, possession of a weapon, obstructing a peace officer, forcible confinement, theft and break and enter.
One man who fought Pelkey suffered a collapsed lung, broken ribs, a cut over his eye and a nearly torn-off ear during a May 7, 2004 altercation, state the documents.
Pelkey also entered the home of another man and beat him with his fists over a two-day period in April 2006.