During his trial in January, Vandewater took the stand in his own defence. He said Chris Van Camp, his cellmate, was “like family.”
The accused told court that changed when Van Camp, 37, returned to the penitentiary after Correctional Services Canada determined he violated his parole.
The pair bunked together again, but Van Camp didn’t survive the night.
Van Camp was declared dead in his cell around 8:15 a.m. on June 7, 2017. An autopsy revealed he suffered more than 60 lacerations or wounds to his upper body.
Justice Brian Scherman determined that Vandewater was “the aggressor and in control” during the altercation in their cell. He described Vandewater’s actions as “gratuitous and unrestrained force.”
Vandewater was charged with second-degree murder, but he testified that he acted in self-defence.
He said Van Camp became paranoid that other people in the prison wanted to harm him, which prompted a verbal confrontation with Vandewater.
Van Camp, according to Vandewater, was holding a shank fashioned out of a sharpened piece of metal fencing.
“Putting your f—–g blade away,” Vandewater recalled saying.
The judge rejected Vandewater’s testimony as not being credible. He also noted how “the gang or prison code” means Vandewater will likely never explain his actions.
“The reasons why Van Camp was killed will never be known,” the decision reads.
The accused said his cellmate swiped at him first. Vandewater admitted to then pushing Van Camp into a desk, punching him, throwing him to the ground and reaching for his own metal shank.
He stabbed Van Camp in the face with his weapon before he grabbed Van Camp’s shank and stabbed him in the midsection.
Second-degree murder comes with a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for ten years.
Crown prosecutor Linh Lê said the judge’s decision showed that even if there was an “err of reality” to Vandewater’s claims, he actions went well beyond self-defence.
“The law of Canada applies in prison just as much as it does outside of prison, and it’s not the G code that runs the day as the accused may have believed,” Lê said.
Defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle said the evidence and number of injuries suffered by Van Camp indicated a second-degree murder outcome was possible.
He said it’s too early state whether Vandewater will appeal the conviction.
Victim impact statements are expected June 5 in Prince Albert.
Outside court, Lauren Laithwaite, Van Camp’s mother, told reporters she hopes Vandewater can be rehabilitated.
“And that he is able at some point to be paroled because of his changed behaviour because of empathy and compassion,” Laithwaite said.
“Do I see it right now? No.”
She has filed a lawsuit against the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), arguing her son never should have been taken back to prison on a parole violation.
The CSC’s statement of defence says Van Camp’s own “high-risk lifestyle” landed him in “an inherently dangerous place.”
According to the mother, the prison system killed her son and Vandewater was the weapon.