EDMONTON – A judge has sentenced an armoured car guard who gunned down four of his crewmates during a robbery to life in prison with no parole for at least 40 years.
Justice John Rooke accepted a joint submission from the Crown and Travis Baumgartner’s defence lawyer.
The sentence is based on a federal law passed in 2011 that allows consecutive parole terms in cases involving multiple murders. The Crown has called it a first for Canada and the toughest sentence for a crime since the country’s last execution in 1962.
Rooke called Baumgartner a coward and a cold-blooded killer.
“The deaths were senseless,” the judge said in an Edmonton courtroom Wednesday. “It’s difficult to describe the revulsion of society and this court and the public.”
Baumgartner, 22, pleaded guilty earlier this week to one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and a charge of attempted murder.
He shot his fellow guards with security company G4S during a routine night shift reloading bank machines at the University of Alberta in June 2012.
Killed were Eddie Rejano, 39, a father of three who had started working for the company six months earlier; newlywed Michelle Shegelski, 26; and Brian Ilesic, 35, the father of a daughter.
Matthew Schuman, who was 25 at the time, was rushed to hospital and survived a bullet to the head.
The families of the victims said they were pleased with the decision, but for many no sentence would have been long enough.
“I am not sure, when you are going through this level of pain, if you can ever feel satisfied with the justice that is available,” said Janet Stosky, aunt of Ilesic. “But I do believe they work very hard for us and we’re grateful and I think that we’ve been honoured.”
Eddie Rejano’s brother, Joseph, ran his hand through his fatherless nephew’s hair as he spoke to reporters outside court.
“Call it justice — sure. My way of justice is back in the old days — hang him,” he said. “That’s justice for what he did.”
Shegelski’s family members said there is a hole in all their hearts that will never be filled. She had just been married and hadn’t even gone through her wedding photos before she was killed.
“Michelle’s death made all of us into victims and not having to think about the possibility of parole for Travis Baumgartner for 40 years takes away a burden that no one should have to bare,” said uncle John Ernst.
Schuman did not attend court for fear of being retraumatized.
An agreed statement of facts said that Baumgartner was in debt after buying a new truck, owed friends money and had fought with his mother about paying rent in the hours before the shooting.
Rooke said Baumgartner could simply have taken the money and run rather than leaving three people dead and a fourth seriously wounded.
He said he had to find an appropriate sentence to make sure that Baumgartner never hurts anyone again, but also to give him some hope for freedom to ensure his good behaviour behind bars.
Court heard Baumgartner used his company gun to shoot three of the guards as they had their backs to him, then returned to the waiting armoured truck and shot a fourth co-worker. The victims didn’t have a chance to remove their own guns.
He had joked with a friend about robbing his employer and had sent a text that said: “This is the night.”
Police quickly named Baumgartner as a suspect. He was arrested the next day in British Columbia at a Canada-U.S. border crossing. Police said they found $334,000 in a backpack he had with him.