The judge who sentenced a Rocky Mountain House man who shot and killed a young mother to life in prison Friday described the case as "difficult and tragic."
Marshall Stone, 47, pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of Ashley Ames, 28, in June.
A second-degree murder conviction comes with an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 10 years, but Red Deer Court of Queen's Bench Justice Monica Bast ruled Friday that Stone won't be eligible to apply for parole for 13 years.
Stone will serve a concurrent four-year sentence for unlawfully discharging a firearm at his former common-law partner Alexis Ames, who is Ashley's sister. Court of Queen's Bench Justice Monica Bast also imposed a lifetime weapons ban and ordered Stone to submit a DNA sample to a national database.
Earlier, court heard that on July 26, 2019, Stone and Alexis lived in a townhouse in Rocky Mountain House, Alta., with Ashley and the three children they had between them ages four, seven and 10. Alexis had two children, including a son with Stone. Ashley was the mother of one.
On that day, Stone stopped at a friend's house after work on July 26, 2019, and drank between five and eight beers during the afternoon and evening. He arrived home around 7 p.m. and got into an argument with Alexis.
Stone left the kitchen, and returned with a rifle. He fired at Alexis, but missed. He prepared to shoot again, but when Ashley stepped in between the couple Stone shot her in the face. The children ran out the back door, and after a short struggle Alexis also fled to seek help.
Ashley was still alive, laying on the floor when Stone shot her again, this time killing her.
Stone called a friend and confessed what he'd done, and then turned himself in to police.
Because of Stone's guilty plea, the only element of sentencing in dispute was parole eligibility. Earlier this month, the Crown prosecutor in the case argued that parole ineligibility should be set at 15 years, while Stone's lawyer urged Bast to set it at 12 years.
In weighing her decision, Bast said it was aggravating that Stone used a gun to commit the offence, that it was an act of domestic violence, that children were present, and that he shot Ashley a second time while she was defenceless.
'Out of character'
However, Bast found Stone's guilty plea and genuine remorse were mitigating factors, as was his lack of a violent criminal history, his immediate confession and surrender, and that he has his family's support.
"By all reports, his actions during the incident were completely out of character," Bast said.
Bast found that Stone's use of alcohol was not a mitigating factor. The judge noted that pre-sentencing reports found Stone seemed to have aggravated alcoholism problems.
Court heard that Alexis Ames reported Stone had no history of domestic violence. She wrote a victim impact statement that was filed with the court to be considered during sentencing.
"I'll never understand what made you flip that night, but you have to know deep down inside that I would have been with you [until] the end of time," she wrote. "I won't get my sister back, my life back, and three children's lives have been forever changed."