Loretta Sakebow sentenced to 5 years for helping set fire that killed Jeremy Starblanket

The first person charged in the death of a man in a house fire in Prince Albert has been sentenced to five years in jail.

Loretta Sakebow was originally charged with second-degree murder in Jeremy Starblanket’s death, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of arson with disregard for human life. With credit for time served on remand, Sakebow has 708 days remaining.

Speaking on the joint submission, Crown prosecutor Maureen Longworth said Sakebow is “not the reins behind what occurred.”

“The accused in this particular circumstance wasn’t the planner,” said Longworth, although “her actions are intimately involved.”

The case dates back to March 2021, when emergency services responded to an explosion and house fire at 516 5th Ave E. According to the agreed statement of facts, the home was Sakebow’s rental property.

Sakebow held a party with Terror Squad members at the house, who allegedly beat Starblanket while Sakebow went on a drug run. When she returned, Sakebow, among two other accused, were instructed to go buy supplies to light the house on fire.

Witnesses saw three people run from the house. The dash cam of a police cruiser also captured Sakebow fleeing the scene.

Starblanket died of thermal burns and smoke and soot inhalation, indicating that he was alive when the house caught fire. Injuries to his arm, hip and leg were contributing factors.

Sakebow was dressed in a loose white T-shirt and grey sweatpants, with her hair tied up in a high bun. Answering questions for Justice Meschishnick, she said she was not aware that Starblanket was still in the home when she helped light it on fire, although she didn’t take any steps to determine that no one was inside.

When Meschishnick’s asked if Sakebow wanted to speak before her sentencing, she declined. While reading victim impact statements, she wiped her eyes with a tissue.

Defence lawyer Evan Strelioff said Sakebow’s drug addiction began in 2016 and “escalated to heavy, daily meth use.” He said she hasn’t used since she was remanded in 2021, and is working through addictions counselling, schooling and a cleaning job at Pine Grove Correctional Centre.

“I hope very much that you will succeed,” said Meschishnick.

However, he said, “it’s very important that this court do what it can” to deter people from gangs.

Longworth said five years is a “significant sentence” based on Sakebow’s “limited” criminal record.

‘Nobody should die like that’

Starblanket’s mother, Lucille Bird, said this is the first time the family has heard details on what happened – she was particularly hurt to know that her son was alive when the house went up in flames.

“It was hard (to hear) that my kid had to suffer and die like that. Nobody should die like that. My boy was good,” said Bird.

“It breaks my heart.”

Frank Ahenakew described his son as athletic. He said he’s kept about 300 medals, ribbons, plaques and trophies from Starblanket’s time in martial arts, track, soccer and hockey.

“He was helpful – you didn’t have to ask twice. If you needed help, he would help,” said Ahenakew.

Bird and Ahenakew wished Sakebow well, hoping she makes strides in her rehabilitation.

“I hope she gets the help she needs because my son isn’t here to get the help he needs, or his kids,” said Bird.

“There’s still that numbness,” added Ahenakew. “It’s a hard thing to deal with, very hard. I’m not sure if the sentence was right, but nothing I can do. It’s out of my hands.”

Three other people are charged with first-degree murder in Starblanket’s death: Darren Masuskapoe, Keyano Ahenakew and Henry Ratt.

Jayda Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald