UPDATE: The Alberta Court of Appeal denied Sheena Cuthill, Tim Rempel and Will Rempel the appeal of their convictions on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018.
The Alberta Court of Appeal is hearing the case of three people convicted of killing Calgary father Ryan Lane.
In April 2016, a jury convicted Sheena Cuthill, her husband Tim Rempel and his brother, Will Rempel, of first-degree murder.
Lane was last seen alive Feb. 6, 2012, after receiving a mystery call from someone asking him to meet about the custody of the daughter he fathered with Cuthill.
The Crown told the jury the killing was over custody of that little girl.
Cuthill’s appeal is being heard first.
Defence lawyer Alain Hepner told the panel of three appeal justices that texts between Cuthill and her husband should have been privileged.
The jury was also shown dozens of text messages, including one from Cuthill to her husband, giving him the “OK” just hours before Lane disappeared.
Incriminating wiretaps were played in court, including a discussion between Will and his mother, where he describes a kitchen and tells her police wouldn’t find DNA.
Hepner also said there wasn’t sufficient evidence to convict Cuthill of first-degree murder.
He had made an application to the original trial judge for a directed verdict. That application was denied.
Defence for Tim Rempel argued a letter — purportedly written by Will Rempel to his brother while in jail — should have been presented as evidence to the jury during the trial.
Justice Alan Macleod ruled the letter was not reliable, and it was not shown to the jury.
In a voir dire to determine the letter’s admissibility, Tim Rempel his brother gave him the letter in October 2015, while the two were in the Calgary Remand Centre.
The handwritten letter read in part: “I made a very bad decision to dispose of Ryan’s body after he died while in my custody… s–t went south and ultimately he ended up dead.”
“I did this to protect you and yours.”
The letter goes on to absolve Tim Rempel and Cuthill of any involvement in the crime.
During the voir dire, the judge was reminded of wire tap evidence, where Will Rempel had told his mother, Mary Rempel, he would take the blame.
Below are excerpts from a May 20, 2012 wire intercept:
Mary Rempel: “I really, really don’t want Tim and Sheena to have to lose their kids.”
Will Rempel: “Before that would happen I will go down as a sacrificial lamb myself. Don’t worry about it.”
The presiding trial judge ruled the letter was not reliable and said there was a motive to fabricate the evidence, and therefore denied allowing it in the trial.
Submissions by defence for Will Rempel argued the judge erred in instructing the jury, and questioned the fairness of the original trial proceedings.
During the trial, surveillance video showed vehicles owned by Will and Tim at the location where Lane was last seen. Will was caught on tape cleaning his truck. Lane’s DNA was found in both that truck and Tim’s Jeep.
Police scoured a massive area after cellphone “pings” from the accused led them to the Beiseker area.
Lane’s charred remains, along with his ring, were eventually found in a burn barrel at a gravel pit, where both Tim and Will had previously worked.
The jury’s verdict backed the prosecution’s theory — that the trio plotted and carried out his murder.
Cuthill and the Rempel brothers were sentenced to automatic life sentences with no chance of parole for 25 years.
The Alberta Court of Appeal justices have reserved ruling on the case, and will allow time for further written submissions from the defence and the Crown in this case.