A former Lillooet man who was found guilty in 2017 of second-degree murder has been sentenced to time served for the crime of manslaughter after B.C.’s highest court — the BC Court of Appeal — threw out his original conviction.
Jeffery Harris was 36 on Feb. 10, 2015, when he stabbed Gary Mandseth to death. Mandseth, 61, was known in Lillooet as a drug dealer and Harris was addicted to heroin after being prescribed opioids following a previous workplace injury.
Harris pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter during an hour-long hearing on Monday in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops.
Harris has claimed in the past that he has no recollection of Mandseth’s slaying. He has said Mandseth injected him with cocaine, causing him to black out.
At the time of Mandseth’s slaying, Harris was using heroin multiple times daily and selling cocaine — which he obtained from Mandseth — to support his addiction.
Witnesses to Mandseth’s death described an exceptionally violent scene. A BC Ambulance paramedic broke down in tears in court while describing what he encountered when responding to the initial 911 call.
Court heard Mandseth’s cause of death was found to be multiple stab wounds to the chest.
Witnesses said they saw Harris attacking Mandseth, saying, “I am killing him because he killed me first.”
Harris testified in his own defence at trial. He did not deny stabbing Mandseth to death, but maintained he was in a chaotic, drug-induced blackout when the attack took place.
Following his conviction in 2017, Harris was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.
Defence lawyers Donna Turko and Talia Magder successfully appealed Harris’ conviction on the grounds the trial judge failed to properly instruct jurors regarding the defence of provocation and involuntary intoxication.
Harris was initially arrested a short time after Mandseth’s death. He spent more than four-and-a-half years in prison and federal custody before being released on bail in September 2019, four months after a three-judge B.C. Court of Appeal panel ruled in his favour.
Now 41, Harris lives and works in Calgary. He has no prior criminal record.
In addition to the time-served sentence, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Michael Tammen also placed Harris on a lengthy probation term. For 18 months, he will have to abstain from illegal drugs and stay at least two kilometres away from the village of Lillooet.
Harris will also be bound by a lifetime firearms prohibition and required to provide a sample of his DNA to a national criminal database.