Justin Ballantyne sentenced to 18 years for manslaughter in Brandon Applegate's death

Brandon Applegate was shot and killed in October 2020, and on Monday a 32-year-old man was charged with manslaughter in his death. Applegate, a father of three, is pictured here with two of his children. (Submitted by Andrew Schultz - image credit)
Brandon Applegate was shot and killed in October 2020, and on Monday a 32-year-old man was charged with manslaughter in his death. Applegate, a father of three, is pictured here with two of his children. (Submitted by Andrew Schultz - image credit)

The family of Brandon 'Smiley' Applegate sniffled and sobbed as the prosecutor read their victim impact statements about his kindness and their grief during the sentencing hearing of Justin Ballantyne, the man responsible for his death.

"We don't want nothing ill to come towards Justin, we just want him to grow and become better and to put this in the past … and to not ever let it happen again," said Andrew Schultz, Applegate's brother-in-law and a family spokesperson, after the hearing.

"This kind of a grief nobody should have to go through."

Schultz and Applegate's sister, Kristen Applegate, are now raising two of Applegate's three children. The third lives with his mother on the west coast.

Travis Reddaway/CBC
Travis Reddaway/CBC

"There was lots of times where they would get up in the middle of the night and they'd be freaking out and screaming for their dad — they don't know where they he is and how do you as a parent … try to tell them where their dad is?" Schultz said, but added the children are doing much better.

Ballantyne, 32, was sentenced to 18 years in prison with parole eligibility in nine years.

With credit for time served, Ballantyne has nearly 14-and-a-half years left on his sentence.

The maximum sentence for manslaughter is life imprisonment, and when a firearm is involved there is a minimum sentence of four years.

How it happened

According to an agreed statement of facts read in court, Applegate and Ballantyne had been driving around Saskatoon on the morning of Oct. 4, 2020, along with two others.

All of them were drinking and smoking cigarettes, according to statement.

At about 7 a.m. CST, Applegate and Ballantyne got into an argument and after both had exited the car, Ballantyne pulled out a gun and pointed it at Applegate, who said he wasn't scared — then Ballantyne shot him and ran, along with one of the others.

At the time, Ballantyne was under a firearm prohibition and was under the influence of methamphetamines and alcohol.

Applegate, 22, later died in hospital, according to police.

"Brandon was a great, great, loving dad that loved his family and everybody else that knew him loved him and that's what we want for everybody to remember him as: Smiley, always smiling," Schultz said.

Submitted by Andrew Schultz
Submitted by Andrew Schultz

Before Judge Natasha Crooks read her sentencing decision to the court, Ballantyne apologized for his actions.

"Even though it's not going to bring him back or anything and it may not help, I am sorry … I'm ashamed," he said from the prisoner's box, with about a dozen family and friends of Applegate sitting behind him.

Family of the accused were also in the courtroom.

Justice Natasha Crooks called the killing a "senseless act of violence" before imposing one of the longest sentences she said she has laid down for manslaughter charges.

Ballantyne also has to submit to a DNA swabbing and has been given a lifelong weapons prohibition.

Ballantyne plans on improving

Outside the courthouse, criminal defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle agreed with the Crown's statement that the death was a near-murder case.

He said the Crown and defence's joint submission for an 18-year manslaughter sentence was an example of meeting in the middle and added Ballantyne acknowledged the probability he could be convicted of second-degree murder and a life sentence.

"There's no perfect solution for a tragedy like this, but as close as we got to one, I think we did today with the 18 years," Pfefferle said.

Travis Reddaway/CBC
Travis Reddaway/CBC

"This young man has taken responsibility, it's the first step toward rehabilitation is taking responsibility and hopefully making reparations to the community that has been impacted by this."

Pfefferle said Ballantyne plans on addressing his methamphetamine addiction during incarceration.

Applegate family mourns loss of Brandon's mother

On Feb. 7, almost two-and-a-half years after Applegate's death, his mother died.

Schultz said the family is also mourning the loss of Jessica Caron, whose partner is charged with murder in her death.

"It was stressful coming in today because … [Brandon and] Kristen's mom, she got killed in Saskatoon here so we've been through the ringer in the last month," Schultz said.

"It was good to finally get here and get this all done with just to kind of put it in the past and just try to move on."