A Nunavut tragedy: the sad, turbulent life of Joyce Kringuk
Binge drinking by age 11, bipolar disorder, multiple rapes
A lawyer defending a Repulse Bay woman who murdered Joani Kringayark in 2008 described her harrowing life story during a sentencing submission Nov. 6 at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit.
Joyce Kringuk, 32, pleaded guilty Nov. 5 to the second-degree murder of wildlife officer Kringayark.
Kringuk had an on-again-off-again relationship with Kringayark for the better part of a decade, and the two had a daughter together.
Kringuk’s story dominated defence lawyer Peter Harte’s long sentencing submission to Justice Robert Kilpatrick.
Harte said Kringuk suffered from mental health problems, substance abuse, and physical and sexual abuse throughout her life.
A doctor who examined Kringuk once said she is “genetically loaded for psychiatric problems” and that Kringuk “clearly had a difficult future ahead,” Harte said.
At age five, Kringuk started huffing gasoline. At eight, Kringuk started binge drinking, consuming up to six beers at a time.
By the age of 11, Kringuk was “addicted to alcohol,” and when she was 14 sought treatment for addiction to gas inhalation.
Sexual abuse accompanied Kringuk’s substance abuse at a very early age.
Harte said she had been raped at age 11, 12, 15, and 22, as well as later in life.
Besides the abuse issues, Kringuk suffers from bipolar disorder and psychosis, he said.
Kringuk, prescribed anti-psychotic medication by doctors several times in her life, often had suicidal thoughts and “wanted to throw herself in the ocean.”
Joani Kringayark, who she murdered on Aug. 8, 2008, also suffered from mental health issues, Harte said.
Kringayark saw “little people” in the corners of his eyes that would speak to him, and had audible hallucinations that told him to kill himself.
The two met when Kringuk was 19 and Kringayark was 39.
The two had a baby together, Madeline. Kringayark didn’t think the baby was his — although he eventually conceded that she was after many arguments.
The stormy relationship plagued Madeline’s upbringing.
One day, Kringuk accused Kringayark of holding Madeline inappropriately on his lap, spawning a memory of Kringuk’s own sexual abuse memories as a child.
That led to Kringayark being charged and ordered to stay away from his child, although the charges were later dropped.
Madeline jumped through different foster homes throughout her life, although she is now residing with her aunt and is apparently a good student, Harte said.
Kringuk and Kringayark had a strenuous relationship in recent years, which included moving away from each other and back again frequently.
Harte said Kringayark would hit Kringuk three to four times a year, although Kringuk never reported this to police.
But for the few months prior to Kringayark’s death, they had been getting along and playing with the children peacefully.
That is, up until Aug. 8, when the two decided to drink together.
After drinking large amounts of rye whiskey and getting into an argument at Kringayark’s cabin in Repulse Bay, Kringayark accused Kringuk of wanting to have sex with her father after Kringuk said she wanted to move back in with her father.
Harte said that after a scuffle, Kringuk grabbed Kringayark’s rifle, and threatened to kill herself.
Kringuk tried to shoot herself with the rifle, but her arms could not reach the trigger when she pointed it at herself.
Kringuk tried again using her feet, but did not complete the suicide attempt.
Kringayark, who had left the cabin when Kringuk attempted suicide, had been indifferent to her suicide attempts, Harte said.
When he returned, Kringuk pointed the gun above Kringayark’s head at close range and said, “Should I just shoot you?”
“Go ahead,” Kringayark said.
That’s when Kringuk lowered the weapon with her eyes closed. When she fired the rifle, the bullet took Kringayark’s head off, leaving just his jaw, and landed in a window frame behind Kringayark.
After this, Kringuk’s memory seems to have failed her, although Harte says Kringuk insists she called for help on the CB radio before firing the bullet.
Harte describes the incident as a “perfect storm fuelled by alcohol, and the tragedy of a readily available, loaded firearm.”
Crown prosecutor Marian Bryant and Harte both came to the conclusion that eligibility for parole after 10 years of serving a life sentence would be appropriate.
But Harte said the case could have been put to a trial — which had been averted Nov. 5 due to her guilty plea — if Kringuk’s memory of the night in question had not been “demonstratively flawed.”
Harte said there is evidence that Kringuk called for help on a citizen band radio before shooting Kringayark in the head, although this was not proven.
Harte also questioned how Kringayark, a wildlife officer, had a loaded, high-powered rifle that had not been properly stored and lacked a safety lock.
He said the weapon was readily available and able to fire at a moments notice.
Bryant objected, saying Harte’s detailed submission “crossed the line” and gave evidence.
Bryant read victim impact statements from Kringayark’s family members, who said their lives have not been the same since their relative’s death.
Kringuk wept loudly when Bryant read the statements. She also choked up when she addressed the court.
“I’m so sorry for the loss of your brother, and my daughter’s father, and I’m sorry it happened the way it ended,” Kringuk said, crying intermittently between her words.
“I hope you accept my apology. I cannot take him back, but I am truly sorry for the loss of Joani,” she said, with family members of Kringayark’s looking on via video-conference from Repulse Bay and inside the courtroom.
Harte said it would not be wise for Kringuk to return to Repulse Bay if she is granted parole after 10 years, as many of Kringayark’s family members live there.
Kilpatrick said he wanted to reserve the sentencing decision for one or two weeks saying he wants to “think about my reasons.”