Airdrie resident Michael Antony Roebuck was found guilty of first-degree murder at the Calgary Courts Centre on Dec. 1.
After his two-week, judge-alone trial took place in October, Roebuck was sentenced to life in prison for causing the death of his neighbour, Daniel McDonald, on Sept. 7, 2019, by shooting him twice on his driveway.
Justice Michele Hollins spent approximately 80 minutes delivering her ruling and rationale on Thursday afternoon, before informing Roebuck of his first-degree murder sentence. Upon the delivery of Hollins' verdict, some of the approximately 20 gallery members in attendance let out muffled celebrations.
Roebuck and Macdonald were neighbours in the Canals community of Airdrie. They had originally gotten along as friends, but their relationship soured after they entered into a cannabis operation together. According to testimony provided during the trial, Macdonald had left their cannabis operation, stating he no longer wanted to be involved in it.
In the months leading up to the killing, Roebuck and Macdonald would hurl insults when seeing each other throughout the neighbourhood. Roebuck accused Macdonald of stealing marijuana and $30,000 from him, though he wasn't able to provide evidence of that claim during the trial.
Hollins' ruling and testimony provided during the trial indicated that Macdonald's murder came shortly after a physical altercation between him and Roebuck at a gas station near their street on Sept. 7, 2019. After the altercation, Roebuck returned home, retrieved his shotgun, and waited for Macdonald to come home before confronting him in his driveway, where he shot him twice from close range.
According to Hollins, there was sufficient evidence provided throughout the trial to show that Roebuck "carried out his plan with a number of deliberate steps." She argued that even though the murder was arguably impulsive, there was enough time between the fight at the gas station and Macdonald's death for Roebuck to formulate a plan to carry out the killing.
"He did not act on the sudden," she said. "I find the murder of Mr. Macdonald...was planned and deliberate."
She also said Roebuck's behaviour and comments made in the months leading up to Macdonald's death showed intent to cause harm to his neighbour.
A first-degree murder charge brings a life sentence, with no chance of parole for 25 years. Roebuck is currently 61 or 62 years old.
After the verdict was delivered, defence counsel Krysia Przepiorka requested a Forensic Assessment Outpatient Service (FAOS) report for Roebuck, but the request was denied.
During his testimony and cross examination in October, Roebuck hadn't denied he'd shot Macdonald, but he had claimed he did so only after Macdonald lunged at him in an attempt to grab his shot gun.
Roebuck had also claimed that in the hours before the altercation at the gas station, he had gone on a date with a woman in Red Deer. He testified that on his way back to Airdrie, he felt like he was in an out-of-body experience, which led him to consider the possibility his date had drugged him.
However, Hollins argued on Thursday that Roebuck wasn't a credible witness, as his claims were frequently inconsistent with video surveillance captured at both the gas station and from neighbouring houses along the street.
After the ruling, Crown Prosecutor Joe Mercier said it was exactly the outcome the prosecution had hoped for.
"The evidence [Hollins] heard and listened to that we put forward was evidence of first-degree murder," he told the Airdrie City View. "The defence put forth that there was provocation and it should have been manslaughter. If there was no planning or deliberation, it would have been second-degree.
"[What] she found in the evidence was that there was planning and it was deliberate, so she found both elements of first-degree."