One of the accused in the death of Shane Smith has entered two guilty pleas and will spend more than five years in prison.
Ian Abercrombie pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death and indignity to a human body on Friday and was sentenced to a total of six and a half years, but with credit for time already served, he will spend five years and nine months behind bars.
The second-degree murder charge was withdrawn. Crown prosecutor Mike Ewenson told the court judge this case is “one of the most emotionally-charged files” he’s covered, describing the difficulty of closure for the family because of the nature of the crime.
“(They) can’t come to terms because they don’t have a body to bury… It`s so tragic because if people had acted responsibly, there would have been closure,” Ewenson said.
Defence lawyer Adriano Iovinelli argued Abercrombie should not have been charged with second-degree murder, based on the evidence.
“I know that (a second-degree charge) causes hardship to the family because they’re told it’s a second-degree murder, now it’s resolved for a criminal negligence, and that raises concern for the family, but based on the evidence, it was a criminal negligence. It should haven’t been laid as a second-degree murder,” Iovinelli said outside the courthouse.
Smith’s family arrived at court on Friday for the sentencing, wearing black sweaters and masks that read “Justice for Shane.” His parents, Shirley and Bill, and sister Cassandra provided impact statements.
His mother Shirley told the court the family is “broken and shattered forever,” wondering if her son suffered. She described their last words exchanged were “I love yous,” and described sadness in never hearing those words from her son again.
“We will never stop searching for him. Where is he? He’s all alone out there… My son deserved his life, and deserved to be laid to rest with his dignity.”
Shane’s father Bill also expressed similar anguish over the loss of their son, his hands shaking as he shared how their loss affected him and his family. “This has left me a broken, broken man, and I will never be the same.”
Abercrombie was not able to attend in-person because of a COVID-19 outbreak at the Calgary Remand Centre. He apologized to the family and said he has many regrets regarding what happened.
“From the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry. I have a lot of regrets when it comes to what happened, and it destroyed my life too,” he said.
“Shane was one of my best friends. I regret it and I’m sorry.”
Bill could be seen shaking his head as Abercrombie apologized. Outside the courthouse, Shane’s sister Cassandra said an apology after the fact doesn’t mean much.
“An apology, six months later, to the family really doesn’t mean anything when you lied to the family.”
The family said the sentence wasn’t harsh enough, and said they are “very broken. Five years for my son’s life?” Shirley said.
“I don’t think the sentence is harsh enough. He took the gun there. He picked it up. He pointed it. He pulled the trigger. He’s 100 per cent to blame,” Bill said.
The night Shane died
According to an agreed statement of facts between the crown and defence, Shane Smith died from a gunshot wound on the night of June 6, 2020.
The facts of the case outlined a night of friends gathering in a garage – to show off new firearms dropped off by Abercrombie.
Two witnesses to the event said the group were in the garage, with Abercrombie picking up a firearm — an AR-15 — with the barrel pointed at Smith in a joking manner.
The witnesses said the firearm did not appear to have a magazine inside but there were no safety checks to see if the gun was in fact loaded, and Abercrombie did not know the gun was loaded, according to the statement.
One witness described an explosion, and Smith falling to the ground.
According to the statement, the accused yelled out ‘Oh my god’ and then ‘Shane’ several times.
A neighbour’s recording captured the audio of what appears to be a single gunshot wound at 11:38 p.m. that evening.
The facts of the case describe Abercrombie rolling up Shane’s body in a carpet and then put in a truck.
“He’s a coward and I’m ashamed of him. My son would have never done what they did. My son would have dialed 911 immediately. He would have never been a coward and ran away,” Shirley said.
“Everybody had so many chances and opportunities to come forward with more information. And they all chose not to,” Bill said.
Court also heard when Abercrombie arrived home, his two roommates helped move Shane’s body. His body has not been recovered, and its believed to have been put in the Bow River.
His family said they will never give up and will continue searching for Shane’s remains.