A Manitoba man was handed an 11-year sentence Thursday for killing and concealing the body of 44-year-old Gloria Gladue, who was missing for nearly three years.
Gladue, a 44-year-old member of Bigstone Cree Nation in northern Alberta, disappeared in 2015.
Her remains were recovered in Manitoba in 2018 after Grant Sneesby confessed to killing her and hiding her body to an undercover police officer.
"By any measure, this was a brutal and callous killing," said Court of King's Bench Justice Paul Belzil when sentencing Sneesby in a Peace River, Alta., courtroom.
In June, a jury acquitted Sneesby of second-degree murder, instead convicting him of manslaughter. He'd entered an earlier guilty plea to offering an indignity to a dead body.
With credit for time already served plus additional credit for being in custody during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sneesby has about three years and seven months left to serve.
After she went missing, Gladue's family undertook their own efforts to search for her – doing media interviews, holding vigils and attending various Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) events.
In November 2017, two of Gladue's children testified at the MMIWG national inquiry in Edmonton.
"I just want my mom back. And that's the only way I will feel better and at peace," her daughter Nicole Gladue-Weesemat told the inquiry's commissioner.
Delivering a victim impact statement on Thursday, Gladue-Weesemet spoke through tears about how loved and missed her mother was.
"We knew the sound of her heartbeat just like she knew ours," the daughter said.
"You are more than a statistic. You left us with precious memories."
She also addressed Sneesby, and said he stole time Gladue should have spent with her family.
"I don't and I will not forgive you," Gladue-Weesemet said.
Gladue had seven children. Her sister, son-in-law and granddaughter also provided victim impact statements on Thursday.
Given a chance to address the court, Sneesby did apologize to Gladue's family, but said he didn't expect to be forgiven.
He said he just didn't think about the effect that concealing Glaude's remains for years would have on her family.
"I guess I was very selfish," he said. "I did the wrong thing."
Gladue was last seen in Wabasca-Desmarais, Alta., about 330 kilometres north of Edmonton.
During a jury trial earlier this year, court heard evidence that Sneesby stabbed Gladue in the chest with a knife multiple times in his kitchen on Oct. 10, 2015.
Court heard that though Gladue initially was the aggressor, she was overpowered and on her back when Sneesby began stabbing her. During the trial, experts weren't able to say exactly how many times Gladue was stabbed, but said it was at least twice and that significant force was used.
After Gladue's death, Sneesby wrapped her body in plastic and put it in a trailer in his backyard. In spring 2016, he moved the trailer to a different Alberta property, and in May 2017 moved it to Manitoba. In June 2017, he removed Gladue's body from the trailer and disposed of it in a ditch.
Sneesby was identified as a person of interest in the case shortly after Gladue's disappearance but denied involvement.
In early 2018, police targeted him with an undercover investigation during which an officer pretended he and his associates could help Sneesby, who was being openly targeted by police.
Sneesby confessed to the undercover officer and led them to the location of Gladue''s body on June 17, 2018.
Court also heard Sneesby went to great lengths to destroy other evidence: burning her clothes, destroying her cellphone and prescribed puffers, getting rid of the knife he stabbed her with and deleting data from his own cellphone.
These actions, along with Sneesby's efforts to mislead police by telling them she was seen alive in Vancouver at a time when her body was in his backyard, contributed to Crown prosecutor Andre Arseneau arguing for a 16-and-a-half-year sentence – 12 years for manslaughter and another four and a half years for offering an indignity to human remains.
"The fact that he would mislead the police in that way is chillingly cold," said Arseneau.
Arseneau also said that Gladue's death should be considered in the national context of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, and argued Sneesby had made comments relying on tropes about vulnerable Indigenous women to deflect police interest away from himself.
"The court has a duty to acknowledge the impacts of colonialism and respond accordingly," he said.
Sneesby's lawyer Steve Smith agreed that his client's actions are part of a grave societal problem but argue that the court must individuate Sneesby's crime and consider the specific circumstances of this case in sentencing.
"There is simply no evidence that Mr. Sneesby exploited Ms. Gladue's status as an Indigenous woman to deflect attention away from himself," Smith said.
Smith argued for a total sentence of seven and a half years – six years for manslaughter and 18 months for the indignity conviction.
In coming to his sentencing decision, Belzil said he considered the details of the attack and Sneesby's attempts to cover it up to be aggravating factors.
He said Sneesby's limited previous criminal record, his efforts to seek out programming while in pre-trial custody and his expression of remorse were mitigating factors.