The man who murdered Crystal Andrews in God's Lake Narrows in 2015 will spend close to 16 years in prison before he is allowed to apply for parole.
Michael Okemow, 40, was sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder by Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Chris Martin in God’s Lake Narrows Sept. 4.
Taking into account factors such as Okemow’s upbringing, mental illness and alcohol abuse as well as the impact of the motiveless killing on the remote community, Martin settled on 16 years as the appropriate amount of time Okemow must serve before he is eligible for parole, then subtracted two months from that total due to the conditions Okemow was held in during his two-week trial in Thompson.
“It is the worst thing that could happen,” Martin said about the early-morning murder of Andrews, who had a fiancé and two children as well as foster children. “The scars will never heal.”
Anyone accused of second-degree murder must serve at least 10 years of their sentence before being considered for parole, but judges can extend that period of parole ineligibility to as long as 25 years during sentencing. The Crown had argued that Okemow should spend 20 years in prison before being able to apply for parole, while Okemow’s lawyers said the period should be 15 years, with three years subtracted because of his upbringing, mental illness and the conditions he endured in the Thompson RCMP detachment cells while his trial occurred.
Delivering the sentencing in God’s Lake Narrows was an unusual step taken at the request of the community. In January, Martin delivered Okemow’s verdict in Gods Lake Narrows, marking the first time that a Queen’s Bench proceeding was held in a remote community. The arrangement was made so that Andrews’s family and residents of the community where the crime occurred could be present for the verdict.
Okemow’s trial was heard in Thompson Jan. 8-20. Court heard that an SUV identified as the one belonging to Okemow's father was seen in the area where Andrews was last seen walking and that it was found on the morning of Nov. 8, 2015 stuck in the muskeg about 300 metres from where Andrews’s body was found. A vaginal swab sample taken from Andrews during her autopsy contained DNA that matched Okemow’s. Court also heard testimony from Okemow's mother that he arrived at her home late on the afternoon of Nov. 8 with wet clothes and that he then proceeded to take a shower and wash the clothes he had been wearing. A pair of his shoes found by police in a box in a crawl space in his parents’ home’s basement were found to have similar characteristics to shoes that caused bruising on Andrews’s face.
Okemow told police in statements around the time of the killing that he didn’t know who Andrews was and that he had been carjacked by two unknown assailants who choked him unconscious in his vehicle and that he woke up the next day in a ditch. Although he had been a suspect since right after Andrews’s murder, Okemow wasn’t charged until March 2018, about two-and-a-half years after the killing.