CALGARY — Convicted murderer and Airdrie resident Hunter van Mackelberg received a life sentence of 25 years with a 12 year parole ineligibility during his sentencing hearing on May 26.
Earlier this year, van Mackelberg was convicted of the murder of 19-year-old Kalix Langenau, whose body was found in a field southeast of Airdrie on Feb. 17, 2020.
Presiding associate chief justice, J.D. Rooke, increased his ineligibility for parole to 12 years from the minimum 10-year period that comes with second degree murder conviction. This makes van Mackelberg eligible for parole in 2034.
Crown prosecution argued that van Mackelberg’s parole ineligibility should be increased to 18 years based on his character, largely formed from his previous criminal convictions and the nature of the offense, as well as the level of planning, and his lack of remorse in the killing of Langenau.
While awaiting his murder trial, van Mackelberg continuously breached court orders and continued committing crimes such as break-and-enters, harassment of domestic partners, and contacting key witnesses in the trial, the crown argued.
Defense attorney Stacey Purser argued 10 years for parole ineligibility is appropriate due to van Mackelberg's good character prior to 2018, his youthfulness and chance of rehabilitation, lack of evidence of planning in the murder, lack of aggravating factors, and likelihood the crime was impulsive. She argued his criminal convictions amassed since his arrest are on the lower end of the spectrum of seriousness.
Rooke said van Mackelberg does not appear before him as a young man of good character, but his youthfulness and chance of rehabilitation are considered in sentencing. He stated van Mackelberg expressed a desire to kill Langenau on several occasions leading up to the murder and felt this was not a crime of passion.
“His youth and mostly positive behaviour before the last few years supports a hope – albeit based on cautious optimism – that his future will be different than the last few years,” Rooke said. “This is not a case where the minimum 10-year ineligibility is fitting. However, a significantly higher period as proposed by the crown is not fitting either.”
Alongside van Mackelberg's life sentence and 12 year parole ineligibility, Rooke sentenced him to a lifetime weapons prohibition and a requirement to give a DNA sample.
Victim impact statements
Eighteen victim statements were read out or provided during the sentencing hearing on May 26 from Langenau's mother, father, brother, sister, cousins, aunts, and several of his friends.
Speaking directly to van Mackelberg, Langenau’s mother stated she was the same age when her son was born as her son was at the time of his death. She spoke of her son’s infectious personality and the fact that he was a valued contributing member of the community.
“His loss was felt by everyone who knew him,” she said. “Instead of celebrating my son's 21st birthday, we sat in this courtroom on his day, listening to how you stole him from us. That in itself is unfair. Again, it's hard to summarize all feelings and emotions I have but know that the field where you killed my son is our field now. We have replaced your evil with love.”
Many of the victim statements explained how the death of Langenau changed their lives, with countless sleepless nights, panic attacks, extreme sadness, and lasting trust issues.
“The thought of him being scared for only a moment is unbearable and heartbreaking, one I often think about,” said Langenau’s aunt, Kelly Henderson.
“That gunshot killed more than Kalix – it killed part of me and my family and I still wait for Kalix to call or come home.”
One of Langenau's friends said he suffers from recurring nightmares and is plagued by thoughts of what he could have done.
“I immigrated to Canada with the idea that I lived in a safe neighbourly area and would have no fear about mine or my family's safety. I now get anxiety every time someone I love leaves by themselves. I will sit alone constantly running scenarios in my head of all the horrible stuff that could happen to them and how I would never forgive myself if I was not there to protect them, like I wasn't for Kalix,” said Langenau’s friend, Jack.
Langanau’s father, John Langenau also spoke in court on May 26, sharing that ever since his son came into his life, he felt he had purpose. John shared happy memories and stories of the things they used to do together, as well as of how proud he was and his own regrets that he couldn’t protect him.
“I only wish that we were closer so that he could have come to me and talked to me about the issues he was having. It kills me inside that I knew very little and was not able to help and unable to protect him,” John Langenau said.
He said the loss of his son took away the joy from holidays, trips, and happy occasions, replaced by thoughts of his absence.
“I feel that I failed Kalix and that will never go away,” he said “This pain and agony that I have ripping at my insides every night while I lay there sleeplessly will never go away. I have a permanent hole in my soul where my Kalix’ bright future should have been.”
During the final ruling on Feb. 22, Justice Glen H. Poelman said not all questions about the case were answered as indicated by the defense, following an earlier judge-alone trial that was held in October and November 2021.
After a meeting in the early morning hours of Feb. 15 in the Balzac Costco parking lot with Langenau’s ex-girlfriend, who was dating van Mackelberg at the time, Langenau was reported missing the next day.
On Feb. 17, his body was located and identified near his vehicle at a secluded location southeast of Airdrie. An autopsy determined Langenau’s death was caused by a shotgun wound to the back of the head from a close range.
Van Mackelberg maintained his innocence during several extensive interviews with police, but Poelman said his story varied over the course of interviews as evidence was uncovered.