Closing arguments made in case of Alberta father, son accused of murdering hunters

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EDMONTON — A father and son accused of murdering two Métis hunters defended themselves, their lawyers said during closing statements at trial, while the prosecution argued it was a case of taking the law into one’s own hands.

Roger Bilodeau, 58, and his 33-year-old son Anthony Bilodeau have pleaded not guilty to two counts each of second-degree murder. A judge was giving jurors instructions late Monday afternoon before they were to start deliberations.

Jacob Sansom, 39, and his 57-year-old uncle Maurice Cardinal were found dead on the side of a road near Glendon, Alta., northeast of Edmonton, on March 28, 2020. Sansom was shot once in the chest and Cardinal was hit three times in the shoulder.

Lawyer Brian Beresh, who is representing Anthony Bilodeau, told the jury to find his client not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter because the man had no choice but to shoot the two hunters.

"Our system of justice applies a tolerance, an understanding that in some cases there can be misjudgment and in some cases there can be an error so long as there is no criminal intent," Beresh told the jury.

"We do not punish people who make mistakes."

Court has heard that on the night of March 27, 2020, Anthony Bilodeau got a call from his father and younger brother, who were pursing a white Dodge pickup they suspected had been on the family farm earlier in the day.

Roger Bilodeau told Anthony Bilodeau to meet up with them and to bring a gun for protection, court was told.

Anthony Bilodeau testified that his phone was still connected to his father's Bluetooth speaker when he heard thuds and cracking glass before his brother screamed for someone not to kill or hurt his father.

Court heard that Sansom smashed the passenger window of Roger's Bilodeau's Ford F-150 with his bare fists then allegedly attacked Joseph and Roger Bilodeau in the truck.

Anthony Bilodeau said when he arrived, he shot Sansom because the man had charged toward him. Anthony Bilodeau also said he heard Sansom call out to Cardinal to get a gun so they could kill him.

Anthony Bilodeau said he shot Cardinal after the hunter came at him with a large gun, saying he was going to kill Anthony Bilodeau in retaliation for shooting Sansom.

Anthony Bilodeau testified he could see Cardinal's gun had a magazine attached and he feared for everyone's safety. He said he shot Cardinal another two times in the back of the shoulder.

In his closing statements, Beresh focused on the alcohol levels of Sansom and Cardinal. A toxicology report showed Sansom's blood-alcohol level was nearly three times over the legal driving limit, while Cardinal's was nearly twice over the limit.

"You know that a drunk driver, a drunk person with a knife, a drunk person with a gun is far more dangerous than one who is sober," Beresh said.

The hunters had been told to leave a friend's house earlier in the day because they were getting rowdy, Beresh added.

Crown prosecutor Jeff Rudiak argued that Sansom and Cardinal's state of intoxication was not relevant.

"Sure they were rowdy. They just caught a moose," Rudiak said. "But the rowdiness never turned into any violence. They were being loud, so they were asked to leave. What did they do? They left."

Rudiak said it was Anthony Bilodeau who "brought a gun to a fist fight."

"This simply is a case of taking the law into your own hands and it's a case of tragic results," Rudiak said. "Two innocent men, Jake and Morris, had absolutely no business dying that night … these two fellas did nothing wrong."

The prosecutor said the hunters were chased for pulling by a driveway, and the killings were unlawful because Anthony Bilodeau was told to bring a gun before there was a threat of violence.

Rudiak also pointed to inconsistencies. He said Anthony Bilodeau testified he saw Sansom put both hands to the scuff of his father's neck, while Joseph Bilodeau said Sansom pinned his father to the steering wheel with a forearm. Roger Bilodeau told police he was possibly hit on the shoulder.

Rudiak said Anthony Bilodeau was the first person to produce a gun and intensified the situation.

"What Anthony actually sees when he gets to the scene is nothing," Rudiak said. "He sees Maurice in the vehicle … sees Jacob standing on the right by his father … There is no engagement."

Court heard that after the shooting, Anthony Bilodeau cut up his gun and threw it in a dump. He also disposed of lights from his bumper at another dump site.

Shawn Gerstel, Roger Bilodeau's lawyer, said his client only followed Sansom and Cardinal to ask them why they were in his yard.

“Roger’s actions that night were a mistake, but they were not criminal,” Gerstel said.

He said Roger and Anthony Bilodeau were on the phone for roughly two and a half minutes before the shooting and could have not developed an "unlawful plan."

Gerstel said Roger Bilodeau initially lied to police about their involvement because he feared what would happen to his son.

"While there is no question that both groups of people made mistakes that day, it was Mr. Sansom and Mr. Cardinal that initiated extreme violence and it was the Bilodeaus who were forced to respond in self-defence."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2022.

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

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