LAKELAND - The family of Maurice (Morris) Cardinal and Jake Sansom left an Edmonton court room in tears after a Court of King’s Bench Justice sentenced Anthony Bilodeau to life in prison for their deaths.
On Jan. 6, Justice Eric Macklin sentenced Anthony Bilodeau, 34, to life in prison without the eligibility of parole for 13 years for the second-degree murder of Maurice (Morris) Cardinal and eight years, to be served concurrently, for the manslaughter death of Jake Sansom, 39.
"The actions of Anthony Bilodeau on March 27, 2020, had tragic consequences. The deaths of two innocent men, Jake Sansom and Maurice Cardinal," Macklin said.
Cardinal and Sansom were found dead at a rural intersection near Glendon, a small community in northeastern Alberta, on March 28, 2020.
Cardinal, 57, and Sansom, 39, had been hunting earlier in the day, killing and butchering a moose for friends the day of their murder. While driving along a road that night, they stopped briefly near Roger Bilodeau’s, Anthony’s father’s home.
Roger believed Sansom and Cardinal were looking for a home to break into and he, along with his 16-year-old son, left the house in pursuit of the hunters.
They followed Sansom and Cardinal for over 7 km, at times reaching speeds of over 150 km/h. During the pursuit, Roger phoned Anthony and asked him to bring a gun.
Anthony shot Sansom in the chest and then shot Cardinal three times. Anthony and Roger left the scene and did not contact anyone about the incident.
The bodies of Sansom and Cardinal were found at 4 a.m. the next morning.
Macklin said there is one fundamental principle in sentencing - the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.
Macklin noted the jury rejected Anthony’s testimony that the shooting of Cardinal was done in self-defence.
Aggravating factors in sentencing included the speed at which he shot Sansom. Within seconds of arriving at the scene, Anthony shot Sansom in the chest, and shortly after that he shot Cardinal, said Macklin.
He left the men on the road to die alone, he got rid of the gun, and he drove to another location and removed the light bar in his truck to modify its appearance, Macklin said.
Mitigating factors Macklin listed included the support he has from family and the community, and the many references provided, and that he has been a model inmate since he has been in custody.
“I have no doubt that he is an excellent candidate for rehabilitation,” said Macklin, speaking about Anthony.
Macklin said he does not believe there are no risk factors for future violence, but during the sentence hearing he also questioned the defence council about whether or not Anthony would have presented risk factors before he shot Cardinal and Sansom.
Macklin said a risk assessment will be more relevant at the time of parole.
The court heard about the impact Sansom and Cardinal’s deaths have had on family and Macklin acknowledged the suffering they have gone through because of Anthony’s actions.
“(Sansom and Cardinal) were pillars of their communities… They were hunters and teachers for their families as well as their communities…They inspired many,” he said.
Macklin said no sentence can alleviate the heartbreak and hurt felt by families.
During sentencing, Crown prosecutor Jordan Kerr asked the court to consider impact statements the court heard on Aug. 26, 2022, that spoke of the clear loss to the community of both Sansom and Cardinal, the impact of which will “affect generations to come.”
Kerr said Anthony has significant family and community support and no previous criminal record, both of which should be considered mitigating factors.
However, Anthony shot two people and neither him nor his father made any effort to seek help or remain at the scene, conversing as Cardinal and Sansom lay on the road.
Kerr argued Anthony modified the gun he used to shoot the men and also lied to authorities about his involvement in the deaths of Sansom and Cardinal.
Anthony made the decision to join his father and was the first person to introduce a firearm to the altercation, said Kerr.
The court heard the aggravating factors to consider in the sentence include that there were multiple victims, Anthony sought to take the law in his own hands, he destroyed evidence when he destroyed the gun, he shot Cardinal multiple times, and left both men to die in an isolated area with no attempt to seek medical help.
Kerr asked for 15 years without parole for the second-degree murder charge in the death of Cardinal and 12 to 15 years concurrent for the manslaughter charge in the death of Sansom.
Brian Beresh, defence counsel for Anthony, said the case was unique as Anthony was a young man with a wife and child. He was prosocial, a churchgoer and devoted to his community, his employer, and society.
Beresh told the court they were seeking 10 years without parole for the second-degree murder charge in the death of Cardinal and four years concurrent for the manslaughter of Sansom.
The court heard, Anthony was involved by no action or thoughts of his own, but was drawn into a volatile situation.
“(Anthony) was drawn into this by devotion and love for his father,” said Beresh.
Beresh said Anthony's trust in his father’s judgement was glaringly evident and that it was clear his father’s judgement was glaringly wrong.
Macklin asked Beresh if Anthony could be faulted for not asking and if, when he was told to bring a gun, should he have asked some questions of his father.
There were laughs heard in the courtroom.
Beresh argued that Anthony had no intent to use the gun and that the gun was not loaded when he left his house, Anthony loaded the gun at the scene of the crime after observing what was happening.
The court heard Anthony was not party to the initial location, the plan to leave Roger’s house, the confrontations, or the speed in the pursuit.
Beresh called Anthony’s actions and conducts reactionary.
The court heard he had 34 letters of reference from a variety of people he had known over the span of his life.
Beresh said there was a consistent thread in the letters, that he was an honest, sincere, and compassionate. That he was religious and held family values. Anthony was not observed to be violent and had no criminal tendencies.
His’s wife, Michelle, said she met him when she was 12 years old in 4-H.
“Anthony would always be there, no questions asked… (He) always put others needs ahead of his own,” she wrote.
His mother-in-law called him the big teddy bear of the family.
“Anthony has become a son to me and that is what I call him all the time,” she said.
Anthony is prohibited from having a firearm and must provide DNA. He received no enhancement for COVID conditions.
On Aug. 26, Roger Bilodeau, 58, was sentenced to 10 years, minus time served for manslaughter with a firearm in the deaths of both Cardinal and Sansom.