Anthony Bilodeau, one of two Alberta men charged with murder in the March 2020 deaths of two Métis hunters, has been found guilty of second-degree murder in one man’s death and manslaughter in the other man’s death.
A jury found Anthony Bilodeau guilty of second-degree murder for shooting Maurice Cardinal and guilty of manslaughter for shooting his nephew, Jacob Sansom.
His father, Roger Bilodeau, was found guilty of manslaughter in both deaths.
Roger Bilodeau, 58, and Anthony Bilodeau, 33, had pleaded not guilty to two counts each of second-degree murder in the deaths of Sansom and Cardinal.
Sansom, 39, and Cardinal, 57, were found dead on the side of a road near Glendon, Alta., northeast of Edmonton near Bonnyville, on March 28, 2020.
Sansom was shot once in the chest and Cardinal was hit three times in the shoulder.
Sarah Sansom, Jacob’s widow, said “nothing will ever be justice” but noted her children were relieved to hear of the verdicts.
“How do you put a sentence or time on two lives?” she asked while surrounded by family and friends outside the Edmonton Law Courts. “I would have liked to have seen four first-degree murder charges but what do you do?
“It’s never justice.”
She added that Sansom was not violent and was a “wonderful man.”
During the trial, lawyers representing the Bilodeaus said their clients acted in self-defence.
Anthony Bilodeau has admitted to pulling the trigger but said he did so fearing for the lives of his father and younger brother.
“We’re very disappointed in the result,” said Brian Beresh, Anthony Bilodeau’s lawyer. “This was not a race-motivated situation. We think that this was a misunderstanding in rural Alberta.
“It wasn’t about vigilantism at all. There’s no suggestion of that. I think some people blew that out of proportion, unfortunately.”
Beresh added his client was “very disappointed and very surprised” by the verdicts. He added that he believes there are “some strong grounds for appeal” but did not say whether an appeal would be filed.
The Crown prosecutor argued this was a case of taking the law into one’s own hands. The defence had argued the accused believed the hunters had been at the family’s farm earlier and were trying to steal when they chased them down.
“This simply is a case of taking the law into your own hands and it’s a case of tragic results,” Crown lawyer Jeff Rudiak told the jury during closing statements.
“Two innocent men, Jake and Maurice, had absolutely no business dying that night… these two fellas did nothing wrong.”
Jurors heard that Sansom and Cardinal had been moose hunting before they were found dead.
Court heard that on the night of March 27, 2020, Anthony Bilodeau received a phone call from his father and brother who were following a pickup truck that they suspected had been on the family farm earlier.
Roger Bilodeau told Anthony to join them and to bring a gun, court was told. The accused claimed the gun was for protection.
Anthony Bilodeau testified his phone was still connected with the call from his father when he heard noises, including glass being cracked, before his brother screamed for someone not to harm his father.
Jurors heard allegations that Sansom smashed the passenger window of Roger Bilodeau’s truck with his fist and then allegedly attacked the two men in the truck.
Anthony Bilodeau said he shot Sansom when he got to the truck because a man charged at him and said he heard Sansom tell Cardinal to get a gun so they could kill him.
He said he shot Cardinal after he came at him with a gun and told him he was going to kill him because he shot Sansom.
Both Sansom and Cardinal were found unarmed though there was an unloaded shotgun found in the backseat of Sansom’s truck, several feet from where Cardinal’s body was discovered.
Anthony Bilodeau said he feared for everyone’s safety and shot Cardinal another two times in the back of the shoulder.
The Crown argued there had been no threat of violence when Anthony Bilodeau was told to bring a gun and that Anthony aggravated the situation arguing he was the first to pull out a gun.
Jurors also heard that Anthony Bilodeau cut up his gun and threw it in a dump after the killings, as well as getting rid of lights from his bumper at another dump. He testified that his reactions were the result of shock and because did not want to end up in prison for protecting his family.
Beresh’s defence saw him focus on Sansom and Cardinal’s alcohol levels. A toxicology report indicated Sansom’s blood-alcohol level was almost three times over the legal driving limit, while Cardinal’s was almost twice over the limit. The Crown argued those findings were not relevant in the case.
Closing arguments were heard in the case Monday. The jury was then sequestered and began deliberations at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Andrea Sandmaier of the Métis Nation of Alberta spoke outside the courthouse after the verdicts were read. She thanked the jury, Crown prosecutors, the judge and the RCMP for their work. She also thanked people and organizations that supported the family after the killings.
“(It’s been) a really heavy week for this family,” she said. “(A) really heavy last almost two and a half years.
“We can’t even imagine the strength that this family has and what they’ve endured. The ugly, ugly, ugliness of the keyboard warriors out there — shame, shame, shame on you. These gentlemen, Maurice and Jake, were so important to our Métis community — obviously to this family, but to all of us.
“They were providers. They were knowledge-keepers. And it is a huge loss. It is a huge loss for this family. It’s a huge loss for the Métis Nation of Alberta.”
Sarah Sansom noted that she was disappointed to see media coverage of her testimony that suggested she told the court Jacob had a drinking problem.
“I never said that once,” she said. “I said back when we were kids. But for our marriage, it’s never been a problem.
“He’s the love of my life so it really bothers me people would think that he’s somebody he’s not because of something I said that was turned around and twisted.”
Irene Forsyth, a friend of the Sansom and Cardinal families, said the family does not understand why there was no second-degree murder conviction in connection with Jacob’s death.
“That’s the only one that we don’t quite understand and hopefully that can be answered and clarified for us in the future,” she said.
Forsyth added that the family has been so focused on the trial that they have not yet had an opportunity to hold proper events to celebrate the lives of Cardinal and Sansom, something she said can happen now that the trial is over.
— with files from Breanna Karstens-Smith, Global News and Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press