3rd person sentenced for interfering with Edmonton man's remains; cause of death remains unknown

A man has been sentenced to 30-months in prison for interfering with the remains of an Edmonton man who went missing in July 2021. (Sam Brooks/CBC - image credit)
A man has been sentenced to 30-months in prison for interfering with the remains of an Edmonton man who went missing in July 2021. (Sam Brooks/CBC - image credit)

As a third person was sentenced for interfering with the remains of Donald Blizzard, the cause of the Edmonton man's death remains unknown.

Justin Michael March was handed a 30-month prison term for interference on Tuesday, after admitting that he hid Blizzard's body to prevent police from knowing the man had died while with March and his friends.

After the sentence was imposed, Crown prosecutors withdrew charges March had also faced for manslaughter, unlawful confinement and attempted obstruction of justice.

'No 911 call made'

March, 36, is the third of four people charged in connection with Blizzard's July 2021 death and disappearance to be sentenced — but court heard that the condition of Blizzard's remains when they were finally recovered has made it impossible to know how he died.

In a victim impact statement, Blizzard's mother Janet Hazen told court Tuesday that losing her eldest son meant losing the sunshine in her life.

"He was a generous soul, and at times larger than life itself," she said.

She described the agony of not knowing where he'd gone after his disappearance — and recounted the two months she and Blizzard's other family members and friends spent searching Edmonton's streets, calling hospitals and shelters trying to find him.

"There was no 911 call made and now he's gone from this world forever," she said.

Body abandoned in rural area

According to an agreed statement of facts, Blizzard went to a suite in a Jasper Avenue building that March was renting on July 27, 2021. At the time, March was on parole for previous drug convictions and one of his release conditions was to refrain from being in Edmonton.

As the hours passed, two other men — Kevin Turner and Andrew Walker — arrived at the suite to help March try to quiet Blizzard.

At one point March struck Blizzard in the face, and later March and Turner tied him up with tape.

According to the agreed statement of facts, "someone" stuffed a sock in Blizzard's mouth, and he ended up dying a short time later, despite some lifesaving efforts by the three men.

Blizzard's body remained in the suite until July 30, 2021, when the three men were joined by a fourth, Mark Elder, who helped them back Blizzard's body into a bag. March paid Elder's wife to come clean up the suite, and joined in the cleaning himself.

Later that day, Walker and March drove the body out to Lac Ste. Anne County and dumped it into a ditch, where a farmer discovered it on Sept. 13, 2021.

Crown prosecutor Aisling Ryan argued March should get a three year sentence, and that it was aggravating that he caused so much distress to the family, and that his actions will prevent them from ever knowing what happened.

"They will never know if his death was because of violence or a drug overdose," she said.

March's defence lawyer Alexandra Seaman argued that a two-year sentence would be more appropriate, citing March's expression of remorse and noting that the underlying circumstances of the crime reflect March's substance use.

March, who appeared by video conference from Drumheller Institution where he is serving a five-and-half year sentence for drug possession for the purpose of trafficking, apologized to March's family before he was sentenced.

"I am ashamed of myself and shocked that something like this would occur," he said. "I am truly sorry from the bottom of my heart."

Answering questions from Court of King's Bench Justice George Fraser about his history of substance use, March told the judge he hopes a drug treatment program he's taking while in prison helps him stay sober once he's released. The judge noted March will be about 40 years old by then.

"At that age you are probably too old to continue in the pattern that you were, or you're probably going to end up dead," Fraser said.

The interference sentence will be served consecutively to March's current drug sentence.

Turner, Walker and Elder have all also pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with Blizzard's remains. Turner was sentenced to two years, Walker was sentenced to 17 months and Elder's sentencing hasn't been scheduled yet.