After a week-long delay, the closing arguments following the earlier judge-alone trial for Airdrie resident Hunter van Mackelberg, who was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Kalix Langenau in February 2020, were heard on Jan. 20.
Upon hearing the closing statements from both the Crown and defence attorneys, Justice J.T. Eamon said he would take some time to consider the information and will return to Criminal Appearance Court on Feb. 4. A court date for his judgment is yet to be scheduled.
The deceased male, found Feb. 17, 2020 in a rural area southeast of Airdrie near CrossIron Mills mall, was identified following an autopsy as missing teen Langenau, who was 19 at the time of passing.
Police arrested and charged van Mackelberg, also 19 at the time, for second-degree murder. According to an agreed statement of facts released during van Mackelberg’s trial in October 2021, Langenau’s cause of death was from a shotgun blast to the back of his head.
In his closing argument on Jan. 20, crown prosecutor Ron Simenik reiterated that according to evidence from a nearby telecommunication tower, van Mackelberg’s cell phone was located within a range north of Balzac that includes the scene where Langenau’s body was found.
Simenik noted it is unclear whether van Mackelberg was in possession of his phone that night, but it was the phone in his possession during his arrest in February 2020.
According to phone records, a call was made at 2:20 a.m. from van Mackelberg’s phone to his father through the tower closest to where the body was found, Simenik said. He clarified the Crown is not alleging van Mackelberg’s father was involved, but that a witness testimony during the trial revealed van Mackelberg received advice from his father that night on what to do with Langenau’s body.
Seven minutes after the call was placed, van Mackelberg's father left the property where he was staying, Simenik said.
Defence lawyer Andre Ouellette responded, “the Crown is insisting they’re not accusing van Mackelberg’s father, yet by innuendo and suggestion, that is exactly what they’re doing.”
Ouellette added that under the rule of law, a person needs to be given an opportunity to respond and to accuse a third party suspect allegation, and an application needs to be brought to the judge.
The judge noted the Crown’s suggestion is there is some evidence that van Mackelberg’s father was aware of what his son had done.
Simenik said several testimonies during the trial revealed van Mackelberg held extreme animosity toward Langenau, “including a desire to hurt, to kill, or have Kalix killed.”
Around the same time that he assured his girlfriend that Langenau wouldn’t be a problem much longer, he was applying for a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) and purchased two guns shortly after, according to Simenik.
Langenau was last seen early in the morning on Feb. 15, 2020 by his ex-girlfriend Madeline Kot.
Kot, who was dating van Mackelberg at the time, met up with her ex-boyfriend Langenau at the Balzac Costco parking lot around 1:35 a.m. on Feb. 15 while he was visiting family in Calgary from his home in Vancouver.
According to Simenik, there was clear evidence that van Mackelberg was aware and upset about Kot’s contact with Langenau, and followed her when she left to meet her ex-boyfriend that night.
Phone records revealed there was a connection between van Mackelberg and Langenau on the night of Jan. 14, he added.
Ouellette noted that Kot saw van Mackelberg follow her when she left but did not see him when she met Langenau in the Balzac Costco parking lot. When she left, she suggests Langenau turns onto the QEII highway turning either north or south, not east in the direction where he is later found.
“Presumably, according to the Crown, Langenau leaves CrossIron Mills, turns to go onto the highway either to Calgary or [the direction] of Edmonton, and somehow my client intercepts, forces him in his vehicle or forces himself in Langenau’s vehicle and leaves his vehicle there somewhere and makes him drive off into the bush and then kills him. It just doesn’t make sense,” Ouellette said.
Kot returned home just before 2 a.m., according to her testimony, Simenik said. Van Mackelberg made a call to his father at 2:20 a.m. and returned home at 3:09 a.m.
“Even before anyone knows that Mr. Langenau is missing, less than 12 hours later, you’ve got Mr. van Mackelberg driving his shotgun and his rifle into Calgary,” Simenik said, adding he was returning the guns. “There’s no logical reason for him to abruptly out-of-the-blue decide he’s going to get rid of that shotgun the next day.”
According to testimony evidence, upon returning the guns van Mackelberg said he needed to “lay low because he did something stupid.” He also told the person he returned the guns to not to let police get a hold of them.
Simenik reasoned there are multiple confessions by van Mackelberg to different witnesses, but also a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence.
According to Kot’s testimony, van Mackelberg provided a confession with details he didn’t tell anyone else. Ouellette noted that Kot had lied before and questioned the fact she didn’t tell anyone else about van Mackelberg’s confession until she spoke to the police.
According to the judge, the accused told Kot it was an accident, but Simenik said this does not amount to a defence. Both the Crown and defence attorneys agreed based on the evidence that this incident could not have been an accident, as the deceased was shot at close range from behind.
Van Mackelberg provided information that could be seen as acknowledgment of his role in the murder to another witness, Simenik said. According to that testimony, van Mackelberg said he followed his father's advice to leave the body instead of digging a hole.
The defence pointed out that multiple shotgun shells were found at the scene, and although they were all shot using van Mackelberg’s shotgun, it’s unclear at what time those shells were discharged.
The area is used by hunters and target shooters, and is well known to many locals – including van Mackelberg, Ouellette added.
Evidence showed that there were two sets of tire tracks at the scene – one from Langenau’s vehicle and another from an unidentified vehicle. It remains unclear how van Mackelberg would have ended up at the scene that night but there is no forensic evidence he was in Langenau’s vehicle.
Ouellette pointed out that according to the medical examiner, following an autopsy, the best estimate the body was deceased was Jan. 17.
“[The Crown] may not like that but it is the forensic evidence, he’s not saying it is that day he died or was shot, but that’s his best estimate,” Ouellette said. “[The Crown’s] case rests on their fixing the time of death.”