EDMONTON – A jury will begin to deliberate on whether a father and son are guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter in the deaths of two Métis fighters after a two-week trial concluded on Monday with final arguments from lawyers on both sides .
The trial took place on the night of March 27, 2020, when Jacob Sansom, 39, and Morris Cardinal, 57, were gunned down at a rural intersection just north of the farming village of Glendon in eastern Alberta.
Anthony Bilodeau, 33, and his father Roger Bilodeau, 59, were charged with two counts of second-degree murder and pleaded not guilty.
Sansom and Cardinal had hunted earlier in the day before driving to Glendon to skin a moose they’d shot. They drank beer and visited friends before leaving after 9 p.m. on March 27 in Sansom’s Dodge truck.
Sansom and Cardinal appeared to have landed near Roger Bilodeau’s property that night. Roger and his 16-year-old son Joseph found Sansom’s truck suspicious and decided to follow him, traveling at speeds of about 150 km/h.
They called Anthony Bilodeau and told him to come to them and bring a gun.
Crown prosecutors say Roger and Anthony Bilodeau planned to kill Sansom and Cardinal that night. The defense argues that the two men acted in self-defense.
Anthony Bilodeau testified that as it approached 10 p.m., he received a call from Roger Bilodeau informing him that he was chasing a truck and that Anthony Bilodeau should bring a gun for protection. Joseph Bilodeau, Anthony’s brother, sat in the truck with Roger as they chased the men. The phone call lasted about two and a half minutes before the two Bilodeau men would come face to face with Sansom at a rural intersection.
Crown Prosecutor Jeff Rudiak told the jury Monday that the case was one of the Bilodeau men who “took the law into their own hands” and also one of “tragic results”.
“These two guys have done nothing wrong,” Rudiak said of Sansom and Cardinal.
Sansom and Cardinal were near Roger Bilodeau’s property but did not enter or arm themselves, Rudiak said. Roger Bilodeau decided to chase the truck, Rudiak said, at high speed and about seven kilometers in length.
“He’s after them,” Rudiak said. “He’s the one who wants the gun.”
Roger Bilodeau’s attorney, Shawn Gerstel, asked the jury to consider why Roger would take his 16-year-old son with him if he believed violence would take place that night. He said Roger was a father of nine children, a man of faith and a hard-working farmer with no criminal record.
“Does it make sense that Roger’s reaction to seeing a vehicle in his yard would be to chase them and kill them in cold blood?” he said.
“Not only am I suggesting that theory makes reasonable sense, the evidence doesn’t support it beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Anthony Bilodeau’s attorney Brian Beresh argued that Anthony was sleep-deprived that night and that he had become more anxious as he reached the intersection where Sansom, Cardinal and the two Bilodeau men were parked.
“He was dealing with a sudden event on a cold, prairie, dark night,” Beresh told the jury. “He was working with limited information.”
Just before Anthony’s arrival, Anthony testified at the trial that he was called by Joseph’s phone and heard that his father told him they had caught thieves and had to take a gun. Then, during the telephone conversation that continued as he drove to his brother and father, he heard a window smash and an unknown man said, “Go get a knife so I can kill these jerks.” Anthony said he heard a “fight” and his brother yelled “Don’t kill my father!” again and again.
When Anthony arrived at the scene, he testified, he saw a man with his hands around his father’s neck. He couldn’t see Joseph, he said. He loaded his .30-30 caliber pistol, got out of the vehicle, which was parked just behind Sansom’s, and set it at the ready, the court heard.
The footage was also captured on a nearby security camera, the footage of which was played back multiple times in the courtroom during the two-week trial.
You can see Sansom walking towards Anthony right after Anthony steps onto the road. Anthony testified that he thought Sansom would try to get his gun and that he also said to Cardinal, “Go get my gun, let’s kill this mother.”
Anthony took a few steps back, then shot Sansom in the chest.
The Crown states that it was Anthony who escalated the situation by loading his gun and getting out of his truck that night. At this point in the footage, Cardinal is in Sansom’s truck and there had been a de-escalation in the encounter, Rudiak argued.
“That was this,” he said. “Introducing a gun to a simple fistfight.”
Anthony Bilodeau also testified that Cardinal said he would kill him because he just killed Sansom.
Surveillance footage shows Cardinal pointing a gun at Anthony after Sansom is shot. Anthony retreats across the road, away from Cardinal, before shooting Cardinal while standing by Sansom’s truck. Cardinal retreats behind Sansom’s truck before Anthony defects and shoots him again.
Rudiak said Roger Bilodeau was the “architect” of the entire incident by chasing the men and asking Anthony to bring a gun, even though it was Anthony who pulled the trigger.
When the shooting was over, no one called the police or an ambulance. The Crown argued that the two men were trying to cover it up and that both Roger and Anthony denied knowing anything when they were first questioned by police. Anthony also cut up the weapon he was using and threw it in the dump. It wasn’t until a few days later that he told the police where it was.
He also altered his vehicle by removing lights from the front of it and disposing of them in a location other than the clipped gun. The lights were not found.
The defense argued that Anthony was afraid and that is why he lied to the police and covered his tracks.
Both lawyers also emphasized to the jury the blood alcohol content of the two fighters. Sansom’s was 2.9 times the legal driving limit, while Cardinal’s was 1.7 times higher.
Beresh argued that Roger just wanted to talk to Sansom and Cardinal that night. He also said that the police were too far away to react quickly to the situation unfolding in the countryside.
Beresh said Sansom and Cardinal escalated the interaction toward violence when Sansom approached Roger’s truck and smashed the passenger-side window with his fist before attacking Joseph.
Rudiak also argued that just as Roger pulled his truck for Sansom for the night and Sansom started walking towards it, Roger tried to return to Sansom before his truck got stuck in a ditch. The defense has argued that this was not Roger’s intention – he was simply trying to back off and leave.
Still, Beresh argued, Anthony Bilodeau acted in self-defense that night and didn’t bring his gun with the intent to kill — he just wanted it for protection. When he heard over the phone the smashing of the window and his brother’s words, he felt that their lives were threatened and he was afraid.
“We’re not kidding about it,” Beresh told the jury. “Had Anthony not arrived, Roger and Joseph Bilodeau would not have survived that night.”
Judge Eric Macklin, while instructing the jury, said both men were facing two counts of second-degree murder. Both deaths should be considered separately, he said.
Macklin said the jury could find the two Bilodeau men guilty of manslaughter, second-degree murder, or acquit them.
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