It’s been nearly two years since Jesse Mowat-Caudle was killed, but his young nephew and niece are still struggling to deal with his death.
“His five-year-old niece constantly grabs his picture and hugs it and cries, saying, ‘I miss Uncle Jesse, mom,’” the victim’s sister, Surie Landry-Caudle, said Monday in a virtual Sarnia courtroom.
Landry-Caudle’s son, who referred to his late uncle as his “hero,” still can’t talk about him.
“And now he is forever gone,” Landry-Caudle said.
Landry-Caudle was one of several family members who read emotional statements on how losing their brother, son, grandson and nephew affected them Monday before the man responsible for his death was sentenced.
After hearing them, Superior Court Justice Bruce Thomas said Mowat-Caudle was “obviously well loved” and is “desperately” missed.
“This proceeding will do little to ease the pain or calm the anger in their family,” Thomas said. “I’m truly sorry for their loss.”
The proceeding concluded with Matthew Theriault being sentenced to 10 years in prison for manslaughter.
The 32-year-old Sarnia resident stabbed Mowat-Caudle, 26, at least twice in his Maxwell Street driveway during the mid-afternoon of April 17, 2019. The pair was drinking with a group of friends when an argument over a “trivial and unimportant issue” broke out between the pair, Thomas said.
“Who was best at selling marijuana,” the judge said.
Mowat-Caudle was rushed to hospital and died in the early hours of the following morning, days before the Easter weekend.
“This is really a senseless loss of life,” Thomas said.
Theriault was arrested soon after and, after being denied bail in September 2019, has been in custody since.
Defence lawyer David Stoesser and assistant Crown attorney Suzanne LaSha both suggested the 10-year sentence Thomas imposed.
“The case, obviously, represents a horrible tragedy,” LaSha said. “Jesse Mowat-Caudle was a very young man.”
A pre-sentence report written prior to Monday’s hearing noted Theriault graduated high school but had learning disabilities that left him feeling marginalized and misunderstood.
“It seems this frustration has festered and has led to serious anger-management issues, which manifested in the attack on the victim,” Thomas said.
Theriault, wearing a blue mask and dark shirt, stood in the courtroom’s prisoner’s box and spoke briefly to the court, held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Ontario stay-at-home order.
“I’m very – very, very sorry to the family of Jesse Caudle and I’m sorry to the courts,” he said. “That’s all I have to say.”
Sister Bobbi-Leigh Mowat said she’s still at times in a “total state” of disbelief.
“I’ve questioned my faith and beliefs, constantly wondering how something so horrible could happen to my brother,” Mowat said.
Cheryl Heath, the victim’s aunt, broke down crying as she started to read her statement.
“He wasn’t just my nephew. He was like a son and a brother to my two girls,” Heath said. “I will never hear his voice or see his handsome face again, and that tears my heart apart.”
Theriault was initially charged with second-degree murder, but pleaded guilty this past fall to manslaughter. He has seven years and four months left to serve after getting credit for time spent in pre-sentence custody. He’s also banned from firearms and can’t communicate with nine people while in prison.
The incident marked Sarnia’s first homicide in three years at the time, but there have been five in the last 10 months.