A jury has found a man guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the shooting of two Métis hunters on a rural road in Alberta.
They also found the man’s father guilty of two counts of manslaughter.
Lawyers for Anthony Bilodeau and his father Roger Bilodeau had argued the shooting was in self-defence.
The Crown argued the accused took the law into their own hands when they chased down Jacob Sansom and his uncle Maurice Cardinal, because they believed the hunters had been at the family’s farm earlier and were trying to steal.
Prosecutors said the shooting was in no way justified.
“This simply is a case of taking the law into your own hands and it’s a case of tragic results,” Crown lawyer Jeff Rudiak told the jury during his closing statements Monday.
“Two innocent men, Jake and Morris, had absolutely no business dying that night … these two fellas did nothing wrong.”
Jurors heard that Sansom and Cardinal had been moose hunting before they were found dead on the side of a road near Glendon, Alta., in March 2020.
Sansom was shot once in the chest and Cardinal was hit three times in the shoulder.
The jurors, who began deliberations around suppertime Monday, returned the verdicts late Tuesday afternoon.
They found Anthony Bilodeau guilty of second-degree murder for shooting Cardinal and guilty of manslaughter for shooting Sansom.
Court heard that on the night of March 27, 2020, Anthony Bilodeau got a call from his father and younger brother, who were pursing a white Dodge pickup they suspected had been on the family farm earlier in the day.
Roger Bilodeau told his older son to meet up with them and to bring a gun for protection, court was told.
Anthony Bilodeau testified that his phone was still connected to his father’s Bluetooth speaker when he heard thuds and cracking glass before his brother screamed for someone not to kill or hurt his father.
Court heard that Sansom smashed the passenger window of Roger Bilodeau’s Ford F-150 with his bare fists then allegedly attacked Joseph and Roger Bilodeau in the truck.
When he arrived, Anthony Bilodeau said, he shot Sansom because the man had charged toward him. He also said he heard Sansom call out to Cardinal to get a gun so they could kill him.
Anthony Bilodeau said he shot Cardinal after the hunter came at him with a large gun. He said Cardinal told him he was going to kill him in retaliation for shooting Sansom.
Anthony Bilodeau testified he could see Cardinal’s gun had a magazine attached and he feared for everyone’s safety. He said he shot Cardinal another two times in the back of the shoulder.
The prosecutor said the killings were unlawful because there had been no threat of violence when Anthony Bilodeau was told to bring a gun.
Rudiak said Anthony Bilodeau was the first person to produce a gun and intensified the situation.
Brian Beresh, a lawyer representing Anthony Bilodeau, told the jury to find his client not guilty because he had no choice but to shoot the two hunters.
Beresh focused on the alcohol levels of Sansom and Cardinal. A toxicology report showed Sansom’s blood-alcohol level was nearly three times over the legal driving limit, while Cardinal’s was nearly twice over the limit. The prosecution said that wasn’t relevant in the case.
Court also heard that after the shooting, Anthony Bilodeau cut up his gun and threw it in a dump. He also disposed of lights from his bumper at another dump. He testified that he did it because he was in shock and didn’t want to go to jail for protecting his family.
Shawn Gerstel, Roger Bilodeau’s lawyer, said his client only followed Sansom and Cardinal to ask them why they were in his yard.
“Roger’s actions that night were a mistake, but they were not criminal,” Gerstel told the jury.
He said the Bilodeaus were on the phone for roughly two and a half minutes before the shooting and could have not developed an “unlawful plan.”
—Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press