An Alberta woman who admitted to shooting her husband and dumping his body in a slough has been sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Helen Naslund, who is 56, pleaded guilty in March to manslaughter in the September 2011 shooting of 49-year old Miles Naslund on their family farm near Holden, Alta.
The couple's 28-year old son, Neil Naslund, pleaded guilty to offering an indignity to human remains.
He was sentenced to three years in prison in Edmonton's Court of Queen's Bench.
The mother and son were both initially charged with first-degree murder and offering an indignity to human remains.
Helen Naslund got married in 1983 when she was only 18-years-old. According to an agreed statement of facts, it was an unhappy marriage, laden with physical and emotional abuse. The family was in financial trouble and Miles often drank to the point of passing out.
That's what happened on the night he was shot twice in the back of the head while he was sleeping face down in bed wearing only his underwear.
After shooting him, Helen got her youngest son Neil to help her drag the body outside.
The next day, the pair took elaborate steps to hide the body.
"They placed a grocery bag over Miles' head, drilled holes in the side of the [tool]box, placed tractor weights inside the toolbox and the lid of the toolbox was welded shut," according to the agreed statement of facts.
They dumped the toolbox and two guns into a swampy area a few miles away from the family farm.
The victim's car was buried in a large hole that was dug behind a shop on the farm.
Helen Naslund suggested to RCMP that her husband may have committed suicide. Her sons told police the same story.
"This was six years of deceit," Crown prosecutor Dallas Sopko said.
"This was a callous, cowardly act on a vulnerable victim in his own home by a partner," Court of Queen's Bench Justice Sterling Sanderman said. "Both of you have stood up and said I've done something terrible."
'This is a tragic situation'
After staying quiet for six years, Helen's son Darrell began telling a number of people about the family secret. They in turn contacted RCMP.
"This was incredibly out of character and a decision of last resort," Helen Naslund's lawyer Darin Sprake told the judge about the crimes that were committed. "At the time of the offence I can advise you she was diagnosed with severe depression. That depression led to suicide attempts."
Sprake suggested that if the case had gone to trial, he might have used battered wife syndrome as a defence.
Before they were sentenced, the judge gave Helen and Neil Naslund the chance to address the court. Both declined.
"Everybody realizes this is a tragic situation," Sanderman said. "Most people who are charged with criminal offences aren't evil people. They're not bad people. They react poorly when other options are open to them. They overreact and they have to pay the consequences."
Sanderman noted that neither of them have been in jail before and now they're going to prison.
"They are going to lose their liberty for a period of time because they did something terrible," Sanderman said. "But that's the only terrible thing they've done in their lives."
Sanderman's sentence reflected the joint submissions made by Crown and the Naslund's defence lawyers. They each receive a four month reduction to reflect time spent on house arrest.