The sentencing hearing for Reuben Buhler, the Burns Lake resident who pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder, has been postponed.
The hearing was scheduled to take place in Smithers Supreme Court on Dec. 7-8.
”The hearing had to be postponed due to a late breaking court related matter,” explained Dan McLaughlin, a spokesperson for the B.C. Prosecution Service.
Flights into Smithers Regional Airport was cancelled Wednesday evening due to fog, according to airport manager Rob Blackburn, which would have made it impossible for the judge to fly in for the sentencing.
The new date is expected to be set on Dec. 12. Defence and Crown attorneys said in court they are likely only seeking one day of sentencing this time.
Wayne Ruttan, brother of one of the victims, expressed his frustration over the delay.
“Show us some real justice instead of delay, delay and more delay,” he told Lakes District News. “Mitchel Wade Ruttan my brother was 48 years when he was murdered; he left behind his wife and his three sons.”
“Reuben made a choice and it has brutally ripped apart the lives of many,” he added.
Although Buhler will automatically be sentenced to life in prison for pleading guilty, he still has to attend a sentencing hearing to determine how soon he can be eligible for parole.
According to the B.C. Ministry of Attorney General, in the case of second-degree murder, the amount of time that must pass before the offender is eligible for parole is between 10 and 25 years. It will be up to the parole board to determine his eligibility.
Buhler had originally been charged with three counts of first-degree murder, which is deliberate and planned. He later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, which is deliberate but carried out without planning.
“We obtained an agreement from the Crown that the first-degree murder charges would be dropped by Mr. Buhler pleading guilty to second-degree murder,” explained Buhler’s lawyer Jordan Allingham earlier this year. “By doing so he has accepted responsibility for his actions.”
Since Buhler has pleaded guilty, there will be no trial.
Allingham said his client pleaded guilty “out of remorse,” and that he did not want the victims’ families to have to go though a trial.
“We will advance the position at sentencing that because these pleas were entered prior to trial, and Mr. Buhler’s genuine remorse, that a 15 to 20 year parole ineligibility period will be appropriate in this case.” said Allingham.
Earlier this year, Allana Watson, sister-in-law of one of the victims, said she doesn’t believe Buhler could ever have the amount of remorse applicable for his actions.
“If he felt remorse, he would plead guilty to first-degree murder on at least two of his victims,” she said.
On April 27, 2015, at 8:25 a.m., the Burns Lake RCMP attended a residence in the 200 block of Fifth Avenue in Burns Lake after receiving a report of potential foul play. Neighbours said they heard gun shots ring out earlier that morning. When officers entered the residence, they found three people – Ridge Vern Vienneau, Ehr Ola Andersen and Mitchel Wade Ruttan – dead inside.