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Manslaughter sentence still up in the air for Dowling man

Jean Lavoie pleaded guilty in August, 2023 to beating his 72-year-old neighbour, Gabriel Paul Richards, to death
Sudbury courthouse on Elm Street.

A Dowling man charged in the death of his elderly neighbour will have to wait even longer for his sentencing hearing as his lawyer, Robert Beckett, is in the hospital. 

Though Jean Lavoie pleaded guilty in Sudbury court Aug. 8 to manslaughter in relation to the death of Gabriel Paul Richards, 72, at a Sturgeon Street building in Dowling on May 11, 2022, he still has not heard how much time he will serve. 

He has been remanded since he was arrested. 

Beckett’s representative in court told Justice Julie Lefevbre the lawyer had been in hospital since Jan. 26. 

Lefevbre said the court was already aware of the issue, and was prepared to adjournment the matter until defense counsel was ready. 

Richards was killed at a Sturgeon Street building in Dowling on May 4, 2022, and discovered by police seven days later on May 11. 

Lavoie was initially charged with second degree murder of Richards, and originally opted for a jury trial, indicating he would plead not guilty. A preliminary hearing to determine if there was enough evidence for a case to go to trial began in July, but the hearing was halted when Lavoie decided to plead out instead. 

On Aug. 8 when the manslaughter charge against Lavoie was read he replied quietly, “guilty,” and an agreed statement of facts was then read into the record by the Crown. 

The statement attested that Lavoie and Richards were neighbors, living on the same floor of the building on Sturgeon Street in Dowling. 

While the statement noted that the two men were acquaintances, it also said the victim, Richards, was “reclusive and unpopular with the other tenants,” and that one of the only people who spoke to him was Lavoie. Lavoie had a car and would help Richards run errands, including allowing Lavoie to use his bank card. Lavoie would use the money to purchase cannabis for Richards.

Richards took several prescriptions and was punctual in picking them up, read the statement. It attested that his pharmacy alerted his landlord to the fact that Richards had not been in to pick up his prescriptions, unusual behaviour for him, the agreed statement of facts read. 

His landlord entered Richards’ apartment, accompanied by Lavoie. Lavoie entered the apartment and told the landlord to call the police. The police arrived at the scene later, and pronounced Richards dead. 

Richards was found face down in his living room. There was a large pool of dried blood around him, particularly at his head, reads the statement. There was extensive deterioration of the body. 

He was wearing only underwear and a white t-shirt, marked with bloody shoe prints on his back.

The statement attests that several other building tenants reported a commotion on May 4, the sound of someone shouting “stop it” and then furniture crashing and glass shattering before only quiet. 

That night, there is video of Lavoie leaving the building with a garbage bag, despite having several garbage options at the building, including near the exit he left from. 

Police also identified the shoe prints as belonging to Skechers brand shoes. They then obtained video footage from Lavoie’s workplace that showed him wearing similar shoes.

Lavoie was interviewed by police three times, May 11, 12, and 14, and he denied involvement each time. During the first interview on May 11, Lavoie turned over Richards' bank card, which he had used several times since Richards’ May 4 death. Then, on May 14, after a five-hour interview, Lavoie was arrested.

Though he initially wanted a trial, Lavoie told the court through the statement of facts, that Richards began making sexual advances towards him, attempting to “touch and fondle him.” Lavoie told the court that he said rejected the advances, but Richards picked up a small hammer from his kitchen table and threatened Lavoie with it. Lavoie claimed Richards’ had “lost his mind.” 

The two men fought, said Lavoie in the statement, and the post-mortem determined that Richards died of multiple blunt impacts to the head, causing 23 lacerations and “extensive fracturing of the temple and orbital bones,” as well as fractures to the right and fifth anterior ribs.

Lavoie told police that after the murder he thought to himself “deal with that you stupid f**k,” referring to Richards.

At the time of Lavoie’s guilty plea, Lefevbre ordered a pre-sentence report to determine mitigating or aggravating circumstances she should consider. The representative for lawyer Beckett asked the matter be adjourned a week, meaning Lavoie’s next appearance will be on Feb. 8 by video to set a date for another shot at sentencing. 

The sentencing itself is slated to take half of a day. 

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with 

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Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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