Preliminary Hearing begins in death of 6-year-old Dontay Lucas

Port Alberni, BC

It’s been five years since six-year-old Dontay Lucas was found unresponsive in his home in a townhouse on the south side of Port Alberni and now his mother and her husband, who have been in custody since May 2022, are appearing in a Port Alberni courtroom as the preliminary hearing begins.

In Canada, a preliminary inquiry is a judicial hearing that is used in serious criminal cases to determine whether the evidence assembled by the Crown against an accused person is sufficient to proceed with a trial.

Rykel Charleson and Mitchell Frank are facing first-degree murder charges in the death of Dontay Lucas.

It was on March 13, 2018, at about 9:30 a.m. when first responders were called to a residence on the south side of Port Alberni. The RCMP said they responded to a report of a child in medical distress at a residence. The boy was transported to hospital but did not survive his injuries.

Initial reports said the boy was injured after a fall down the stairs inside the townhouse.

Police and the BC Coroner’s Service began an investigation.

“The child’s death is being treated as suspicious and the investigation is ongoing,” stated the Port Alberni RCMP in a news release on March 28, 2018.

On May 7, 2022, the RCMP issued a statement, saying two people had been arrested the day before and are both charged with first-degree murder in the death of six-year-old Don-Tay Patrick Lucas. They declined to reveal what the cause of death was.

In their statement, the Port Alberni RCMP said they arrested the local 29-year-old man and 28-year-old woman for the murder of the six-year-old.

“On May 7, 2022, Ms. Rykel Frank (Nee Charleson) and Mitchell Frank were charged with the first-degree murder of Dontay Lucas. The investigation continues,” stated the RCMP.

Rykel was Dontay’s mother, and Mitchell Frank is her husband, not related to Dontay.

The preliminary hearing began June 12, 2023 at the Port Alberni Courthouse. Patrick Lucas, Dontay’s biological father, was there with family and friends supporting him. They carried placards demanding justice for Dontay and stood together as Patrick led a drumming circle more than an hour before the courtroom opened.

“My emotions have been all over the place,” said Patrick Lucas, with his mother and sister standing close by his side. “I couldn’t sleep last night.”

Cultural support people were on hand to lend their strength to the loved ones of Dontay Lucas, as they heard difficult testimony. The judge ordered a publication ban that remains in place for the duration of the hearing, expected to take about five days.

In May 2022, when the arrests were made, Sgt. Clayton Wiebe of the Port Alberni General Investigative Services, described the investigation as complex, noting there was a lot of evidence to process.

“The volume of material was enormous, and it takes time to put it together,” Weibe stated.

He went on to say that they waited for reports from various agencies, including the BC Coroner and forensic sciences services. He mentioned cell phone records were part of the investigation.

Wiebe explained that some information, including the cause of death, couldn’t be released and would come out in the trial.  

“In order to explain that properly, I would have to get into the evidence, which I’m not prepared to do right now,” he said.

Other children who were in the home at the time of Dontay’s death were immediately removed and placed in care, according to Wiebe.

According to the Criminal Code of Canada, murder is first degree if the offence was “planned and deliberate.” A person’s death can also fall under this classification if the murder occurs while someone is attempting sexual assault or kidnapping and forcible confinement.

The preliminary hearing continues at the Port Alberni Courthouse from June 12 to June 16, 2023.

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