One of two brothers charged in the shooting death of a young Alberta hockey player will spend at least four years in prison for his crime.
Kody Giffen pleaded guilty in August 2020 to manslaughter in the death of 24-year-old Kristian Ayoungman. He was found dead in his vehicle east of Calgary two years ago, on March 17, 2019.
Kody and his brother Brandon Giffen were initially charged with first-degree murder in Ayoungman’s death. Brandon is set to stand trial in June.
Supporters of Ayoungman’s family were seen drumming and singing outside the courthouse, with family members donning jerseys of one of the hockey teams he played on.
Ayoungman’s mother, Melodie Hunt-Ayoungman, read a victim impact statement as part of the hearing, saying it was “something I needed to do for my boy.”
“Somebody needs to stand up for him. To speak up for him. And to help for everyone to know how he lived his life,” she said.
“I don’t want him to be remembered for the way he was taken, but (for people) to remember him for who he truly, really was.”
Hunt-Ayoungman said it was important that people know what her son meant to her family, as well as the community.
“He was truly loved. We really do miss him. What happened to him was not right but there’s nothing that can bring him back,” she said.
Hunt-Ayoungman said those who attended court with her, including her husband, daughter, Nation leaders and council members, were her “strength” through the difficult process.
“Our community is our strength. Kristian was our strength. He touched everyone in our community, not only SIksika, but Strathmore, but all First Nations in Canada and the United States. This touched everybody. But I want this to be a turning point for everyone to move forward in a good way.”
Hunt-Ayoungman said the sentencing was out of her hands and she would not fight it, and instead would focus on trying to heal.
Ayoungman’s death sent waves of shock and grief through the southern Alberta town of Strathmore, where he’d become a beloved member of the community and local hockey teams.
Months after he was killed, Ayoungman’s jersey was retired in the Strathmore Family Centre Arena during a ceremony that paid tribute to his life and his First Nation culture.
“Anything you needed, he was there for you,” Shadoe Stoodley, a former head coach of the Strathmore Wheatland Kings, said at the time.
“You couldn’t say a bad thing about him. He was honestly one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and it was an honour to know him and it was an honour to coach him.”
— With files from Jill Croteau, Global News