EDMONTON – The Crown and the Defence issued a joint submission for a global sentence of life in prison with no parole eligibility for 40 years for Travis Baumgartner.
“This is the harshest sentence in Canada since the last execution in 1962,” said Chief Crown Prosecutor Steven Bilodeau about Monday’s submission.
Twenty-two-year-old Baumgartner, the man convicted of killing three of his co-workers and injuring a fourth during a robbery at the University of Alberta’s HUB mall, was originally charged with three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and four counts of robbery with a firearm.
On the first day of the trial on Monday, Baumgartner pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Eddie Rejano, two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Brian Ilesic and Michelle Shegelski, and guilty of one count of attempted murder in the shooting of Matthew Schuman.
The four robbery with a firearm charges were stayed.
Court heard that Baumgartner had joked about robbing G4S and, on June 14, 2012, had a fight with his mother about rent money.
“Don’t worry, you’ll get your money,” said Baumgartner on June 14, according to the Agreed Statement of Facts.
For most of the court proceedings, Baumgarter – dressed in a dark suit – sat with his arms crossed, slouched often, and closed his eyes for extended periods of time.
According to an Agreed Statement of Facts, Baumgartner was on shift with four other G4S guards reloading an ATM at the University of Alberta’s HUB Mall in the early morning hours of June 15, 2012 when he shot his co-workers, three of them fatally.
Court heard 35-year-old Ilesic and 26-year-old Shegelski died immediately inside the ATM vestibule. Schuman was shot in the head and was left locked inside the vestibule, bleeding from a massive head wound, and yelling for help.
Court heard that Baumgartner, who was 21-years-old at the time of the shooting, then left the scene, walked to where the G4S armoured vehicle was parked, reloaded his weapon, and fatally shot 39-year-old Eddie Rejano.
According to the Agreed Statement of Facts, Baumgartner had more than $600,000 of stolen cash in his possession at that time. He ended up dropping off money for his friends, and leaving money for his mother before changing clothes and driving away in a Ford pickup truck.
Baumgartner was arrested less than 48-hours after the shooting when he tried to cross the Canada-U.S. border near Abbotsford, B.C. He had $334,000 in a backpack when he was arrested.
While in custody, Baumgartner had several conversations with an undercover RCMP officer, court heard. Baumgartner initially told this officer his name was David Webb – the real name of the fictional character of Jason Bourne – and that he didn’t remember the events of the past few days.
According to the Agreed Statement of Facts, Baumgartner eventually told the undercover officer, “I did it all… killed those people and took their truck.”
On Monday, court heard 12 victim impact statements from the victims’ loved ones.
“She was the one thing I was absolutely sure of in life,” said Victor Shegelski, Michelle’s husband. “My perfect woman… is dead.”
Cheryl Ernst, Michelle’s mother, spoke next.
“I’m devastated, completely devastated,” she sobbed. “My heart is in my throat.”
“Imagine having to hope that your daughter is in critical condition, because that would be the good news.”
Family members could be heard crying throughout the courtroom. Baumgartner sat, arms crossed, emotionless.
When Michelle’s aunt was reading her victim impact statement and turned to Baumgartner to ask “was Michelle thinking ‘how can I stop you?’,” he looked up at her briefly.
Cleo Rejano, Eddie’s wife, walked to the front of the room with one of her two young sons.
“I never thought of becoming a widow at the age of 32,” she says. She explained how her “heart aches and bleeds” for her two boys who miss their daddy.
As she struggled through her statement, Rejano’s youngest son Xylar picked up a tissue and wiped a tear from his mother’s cheek.
Brian Ilesic’s parents Dianna and Mike read their victim impact statements and asked Baumgartner how he could have “turned on his co-workers when they trusted him.”
“There was no dignity in Brian’s death,” says Dianna. “We never got the chance to say goodbye.”
Co-Crown prosecutor Tania Holland read Matthew Schuman’s victim impact statement. He says he’s lost a portion of his brain from the gunshot wound, has lost feeling in his right side, and has lost vision in the right side of both eyes. Schuman spent three months at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital.
He explained how the shooting has affected him emotionally. He says the brain injury makes him snap at Jennifer, the mother of his child. Jennifer explains in her statement that the two no longer live together.
“You took my career, my health… my future,” read Schuman’s statement.
“You destroyed our family,” Jennifer’s statement reads.
After the victim impact statements were read, the Crown made the joint submission for sentencing:
For the murder of Brian Ilesic (to which Baumgartner pleaded guilty in the second-degree), a life sentence with parole ineligibility for 15 years, to be served consecutively was submitted.
For the murder of Eddie Rejano (to which Baumgartner pleaded guilty in the first-degree), a life sentence with parole ineligibility for 25 years, to be served consecutively was submitted.
For the murder of Michelle Shegelski (to which Baumgartner pleaded guilty in the second-degree), a life sentence with parole ineligibility for 15 years, to be served concurrently was submitted.
For the attempted murder of Matthew Schuman (to which Baumgartner pleaded guilty), a life sentence with parole ineligibility for 10 years, to be served concurrently was submitted.
The global sentence submitted jointly by the Crown and the Defence was a life sentence with parole ineligibility for 40 years.
“This was a primary intent murder,” said Bilodeau while outlining the aggravating factors, which also included harm to the community, and reckless disregard for the safety of others.
Bilodeau added the mitigating factors were the youth of the accused, his lack of criminal record, and the timing of the guilty plea.
Justice John Rooke discussed the issues of the parole ineligibility period and consecutive versus concurrent parole ineligibility periods with the lawyers.
Under a new law, judges can use discretion when sentencing multiple murderers in terms of changing parole ineligibility terms from concurrent to consecutive.
In August, Baumgartner requested to be tried by judge alone, so there is no jury for this trial.
Late Monday afternoon, when given the opportunity to address the court, Baumgartner declined.
“Not at this point in time,” he answered when the judge asked if he had anything to say.
Justice Rooke then adjourned court until Wednesday at 10 a.m. when he will provide a sentencing decision.
If the joint submission is accepted, Baumgartner would be 61-years-old before he would be eligible for parole.
“Assuming Travis Baumgartner survives 40 years in prison, he could appeal to the Parole Board in 2052,” said Bilodeau.
“Just because you’re eligible, doesn’t mean you get it,” noted Defence lawyer Peter Royal. “No Parole Board is going to look on him favourably.”
Global News reporters Emily Mertz and Laurel Clark were tweeting live from the courtroom. Follow our live blog below: