Maximum sentence for man who admitted to murdering mother and toddler in Hinton, Alta.

Mchale Busch, 24, and her 16-month-old son Noah McConnell were found dead on Sept. 17, 2021.  Robert Keith Major has since been convicted of first-degree murder in their deaths.  (GoFundMe - image credit)
Mchale Busch, 24, and her 16-month-old son Noah McConnell were found dead on Sept. 17, 2021. Robert Keith Major has since been convicted of first-degree murder in their deaths. (GoFundMe - image credit)

Warning: This story contains graphic details of sexual assault and murder.

A convicted sex offender has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years for the first-degree murders of a 24-year-old Hinton woman and her 16-month-old toddler.

The pain, grief and horror were palpable on Tuesday in a Hinton courtroom at the sentencing hearing for Robert Keith Major who admitted that in September 2021, he killed his new next-door neighbour Mchale Busch and her son, Noah McConnell.

Major, was originally charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of offering an indignity to human remains.

Those charges were later upgraded to two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of interfering with human remains. The charges of interfering with human remains have been stayed.

Busch's father, Stuart Busch, told the court he'll always be haunted by the image of his daughter fighting for her life and not a day goes by that he doesn't cry over the loss of his daughter and grandson.

"It's inconceivable to endure something like this," he said. "How can it be that simply moving in next door to someone can be so dangerous?

"They were innocent people killed with no provocation."

The mother and son were found dead in an apartment complex in Hinton, about 250 kilometres west of Edmonton, on Sept. 17, 2021.

According to an agreed statement of facts, Major intentionally killed Busch before suffocating her son in the afternoon on the previous day.

Busch and her partner had moved into an apartment next to Major's three weeks earlier.

The Crown says it isn't known how Busch ended up in Major's apartment, but that is where he sexually assaulted her, strangling Busch to death and violating her body.

Court heard Major then suffocated the child and put the boy's body in a garbage bag and left it in a dumpster.

RCMP arrested Major the next day.

'I no longer have a spouse'

In his victim impact statement, Cody McConnell wrote, "I no longer have a spouse, I lost everything."

Submitted by Cody McConnell
Submitted by Cody McConnell

He said he's unable to live alone, always locks his door and has panic attacks when people don't answer his calls or respond to his messages.

"The domino effect of [Major's] inexcusable actions literally make this world a much worse place to live in," McConnell's close friend Jared Sand wrote in his victim impact statement.

"The unthinkable acts that resulted in their deaths can only make one physically sick. No one in their right mind could do what was done to these innocent victims."

Crown prosecutor Phil LeFeuvre said Major has shown little remorse for the murders.

Rob Major/Facebook
Rob Major/Facebook

He pointed out that in a pre-sentence report, the 55 year old described himself to a parole officer as a good person.

LeFeuvre also noted that Major has 24 criminal convictions, including a 2013 conviction in Edson for aggravated sexual assault. The prosecutor said Major has shown no remorse or insight into his earlier crimes.

Court of King's Bench Justice Marta Burns pointed out that Major also told the parole officer that he thought he should be in jail for a long time and admitted he would be scared of himself if he was released.

"These crimes are unspeakable," LeFeuvre said. "It seems contrived to say anything more than what's been said in the victim impact statements. They say it all. The community is appalled by these crimes."

The judge began to lose her composure and fought back tears as she described what Major did to Noah.

"I've heard of the love felt for Mchale and Noah," Burns said. "I've heard these were precious souls, beautiful souls."

Major turned down the chance to address the court.

Due to a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision that no longer allows consecutive sentences for more than one murder, the Crown and defence made a joint submission for the maximum penalty now allowed under law for first-degree murder: life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Major will be almost 80 years old when he's eligible to apply for parole.

Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If you're in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.