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Digest: R. v. Vader

[2017] A.J. No. 53

Alberta Court of Queen's Bench
D.R.G. Thomas J.

January 25, 2017.
(271 paras.)

   Criminal law — Sentencing — Criminal Code offences — Offences against person and reputation — Homicide — Manslaughter — Particular sanctions — Imprisonment — Sentencing considerations — Aggravating factors — Deterrence — Denunciation — Protection of the public — Submissions — Victim impact statements — Previous record — Lengthy — Sentencing precedents or starting point — Maximum or minimum sentence available — Addicts — Drugs — Seriousness of offence — Effect on victims — Offender sentenced to life imprisonment for two counts of manslaughter — Offender discharged a firearm and killed elderly couple in course of robbing them of RV, SUV, and contents — Offender burned RV and concealed bodies in unknown location — Offender, age 44, was methamphetamine addict with long record of drug and property crimes — He refused to participate in pre-sentencing assessments and maintained innocence — Predatory circumstances of offences and offender's low prospect for rehabilitation justified lengthy sentence — Life imprisonment was fit and proportionate sentence.

   Sentencing of the offender, Vader, for two counts of manslaughter. The offender was a methamphetamine addict who killed an elderly married couple and stole their RV, an attached SUV, and the vehicle contents. The encounter occurred in a rural area off of a main highway. A firearm was discharged during the incident. The RV was burned in an effort to destroy evidence linking the offender to the victims. The victims' bodies were placed in an unknown location and remained undiscovered. The offender's trial for first degree murder resulted in manslaughter convictions, as it could not be established that the killings were planned and deliberate. The offender, age 38 at the time of the killings and age 44 at the time of sentencing, had a lengthy criminal record related to drug and property crimes. He refused to participate in pre- sentencing assessments, denied any drug use, and continued to maintain his innocence. The Crown sought a sentence of life imprisonment. Defence counsel argued in favour of a disposition of time served, reflecting a six-year sentence. In addition, the offender sought a stay of proceedings or reduction in sentence on the basis of an abuse of process, cruel and unusual conditions in pre-trial custody, interference with his consultations with counsel, and an unlawful strip search.

   HELD: Vader was sentenced to life imprisonment. The offender intercepted and entered the victims' RV with a loaded firearm to confront them, take control of their vehicle, and rob them of their belongings. It was a reasonable possibility that the killings occurred in response to the victims' physical resistance to a robbery, but was not plausible that their deaths resulted from a near-accident. The offender was a methodical and intelligent criminal who was aware of the risks associated with his predatory intentions and actions. The circumstances justified a lengthy sentence to serve the principles of deterrence and denunciation. In addition, the offender was a manipulative and dangerous individual who was unable to control his drug addiction. His rehabilitation and successful reintegration into society required a lengthy sentence. The totality of circumstances supported a conclusion that a fit and proportionate global sentence for the offender was life imprisonment. The offender's allegations of Charter breaches were without merit. Sentence: life imprisonment — Criminal Code, s. 236.