Kaska man from Ross River sentenced in death of Kaska woman

Philip Atkinson, 68, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in late 2023

The man who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2019 death of Kaska woman Mary Ann Ollie has been sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison.

Philip Atkinson, 68, a Kaska man from Ross River, Yukon was originally charged with first-degree murder in the death of Ollie, 59, on Sept. 16, 2020.

Atkinson pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter on Oct. 12, 2023, as part of a plea bargain.

With time served, Atkinson will be released from federal prison in just over four years. He’s also subject to a DNA order and lifetime firearms ban.

Ollie was last seen alive at Atkinson’s home in Ross River on July 31, 2019. Her body was discovered there the following day.

Her death was initially not considered suspicious. An autopsy later found she had multiple bruises and rectal wounds that launched an investigation into her death.

Atkinson was charged 13 months later.

The Crown and defence submitted a joint sentence agreement, which Judge David Gates accepted on April 30.

A joint submission is when both the Crown and offender’s lawyer agree on a sentence to present to a judge, typically when the accused pleads guilty or in exchange for a guilty plea.

Defence lawyer Jennifer Cunningham said the Crown had “significant weaknesses” in its case against Atkinson. She said the joint submission prevented a five-week jury trial, spared witnesses from graphic details of the case, and saved time and valuable court resources.

The submission also considered Atkinson’s guilty plea, his past history of family and sexual trauma, his time spent at residential school, and having to spend considerable time in lockdown at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The judge said Atkinson would have likely been sentenced to between 10 and 12 years.

Atkinson was supposed to have been sentenced in December 2023, but Gates delayed his decision to have more time to consider the joint submission.

He apologized that it “delayed healing” for Ollie’s family and community.

Gates went on to describe Ollie’s death as a “brutal and savage attack” and said Atkinson had committed a “serious crime”.

He also noted aggravating factors in the case, including that Ollie was an Indigenous woman and Atkinson had a lengthy criminal record with 12 prior convictions involving female victims.

“You will have to live with this knowledge for the rest of your life,” Gates told Atkinson.

‘Slap on the wrist’

A photo of Mary Ann Ollie before her death. Photo: Yukon RCMP

Roberta Dick, a member of Ross River Dena Council (RRDC) and a cousin of Ollie’s, told reporters she felt “justice wasn’t served.”

“Nine-and-a-half years is not much time. And her children said that’s not enough time, either. It’s nothing. It’s just a slap on the wrist,” she said.

Dick said crimes and violence against Kaska women are common in Ross River and the community continues to grapple with the disappearance of 40-year-old Ramona Peter.

She expressed frustration that an investigation into Ollie’s death hadn’t been launched immediately and Atkinson was allowed to roam free in the community for more than a year afterwards.

“Just seems like no one cares,” she said.

Dick said RRDC will now focus on funding for supports and counselling for those affected by Ollie’s death.

“[We need] a lot of healing.”

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