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Court and crime through the decade

St. Albert has had some serious crimes and court cases unfold in the city over the past decade.
stock-Courthouse DR13
St. Albert Provincial Court

St. Albert has had some serious crimes and court cases unfold in the city over the past decade. The Gazette looks back at what made headlines since 2010:

The McCanns

2010 started off with St. Albert seniors Lyle and Marie McCann going missing. What unfolded over the next 10 years was a tale of sorrow for the family and community.

Lyle, 78, and Marie, 77, were last seen filling their motorhome with gas in St. Albert on July 3, 2010, before setting off on a planned trip to visit with family and camp on the West Coast. Their burned motorhome was found near the Minnow Lake campground, southeast of Edson, two days later and an SUV they had been towing was discovered a few days later in heavy bush several kilometres away.

Travis Vader, who was 38 at the time, was arrested two weeks later on July 19, 2010, near Niton Junction on warrants unrelated to the McCann case. By the end of August, Vader has been identified as a person of interest in the McCann case, but he didn't face first-degree murder charges until 2012.

On March 19, 2014, days before Vader was set to face trial on the murder charges, Crown prosecutors entered a stay of proceedings after determining police hadn't disclosed all the evidence.

Vader eventually went to trial in 2016 and was originally convicted on two counts of second-degree murder, but Court of Queen's Bench Justice Denny Thomas used a section of the Criminal Code that was ruled unconstitutional more than 20 years ago. Once the error was realized, Thomas substituted the convictions for two counts of manslaughter in the deaths of the senior couple. In early 2017, Vader was sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility until spring 2020.

Jessica Martel

Jessica Martel’s common-law husband was convicted of her murder at the end of 2010 and the trial revealed the grisly details of her death.

James Gary Urbaniak pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the brutal death of his common-law wife Martel and was sentenced to life in prison.

Martel's family and friends filled the benches of the courtroom and described in a series of victim impact statements how the attack had left them psychologically scarred to they point they had trouble sleeping. They also spoke eloquently of Martel and the joy she had brought to their lives.

The court heard in the agreed statement of facts that Martel's young children were in the home when Urbaniak beat and then strangled Martel to death. The experience left the children with deep psychological scars.

Since Martel’s death, her family has honoured her memory and is in the process of opening Jessie’s House, a shelter for men, women and families fleeing domestic violence.

Mark Twitchell

In 2011, a crime that drew international attention went to trial after a St. Albert man committed a bizarre murder inspired by the television show Dexter.

The crime was committed in 2008 and police remained tight-lipped on the investigation, but by the time the trial rolled around in 2011, the Crown was able to paint a picture of a wannabe filmmaker-slash-serial killer who used social media and dating websites to carry out a crime inspired by Dexter.

Mark Twitchell, a St. Albert resident, was convicted of first-degree murder for the death and disappearance of John Brian “Johnny” Altinger, a 38-year-old oilfield equipment manufacturer. Altinger was killed on Oct. 10, 2008, and Twitchell (who was 29 at the time) was arrested on Oct. 31, 2008.

Twitchell lured Altinger to a garage in south Edmonton by pretending to be a woman on the dating website PlentyOfFish. Altinger’s friends eventually became concerned about him after they received emails from him saying he had met a woman on a dating website and he was going on a long vacation with her to Costa Rica. His friends eventually broke into his condo, where they discovered his passport. Nothing had been packed for a trip so they alerted police.

It was eventually discovered that Twitchell had killed Altinger and sent the emails from Altinger's accounts. Twitchell then dismembered the body and dumped the remains in a north Edmonton sewer.

In the end, the 12-person jury deliberated for five hours before finding Twitchell guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison and is currently serving his time in a Saskatchewan penitentiary.

Const. David Wynn

Halfway through the decade, two hometown heros were shot on the job, resulting in the death of Const. David Wynn and wounding of Auxiliary Const. Derek Bond.

In January 2015, Wynn, 42, was shot in the line of duty while attempting to arrest Shawn Rehn. Wynn and Bond, 49, had identified a truck with a licence that didn’t match the registration at the Apex Casino. The discovery led to tragedy when Rehn shot them at close range outside the casino. Rehn was out on bail at the time.

Wynn was transported to hospital but later died of his injuries. Bond suffered injuries to his arm and torso and was released from the hospital later that day.

Rehn later committed suicide and was found dead in a nearby rural home.

Wynn is remembered as a caring, compassionate man who was heavily involved in his community and loved a good practical joke.

Since Wynn’s death, a review of Alberta’s bail system was undertaken, resulting in many changes. At the time of Wynn’s death, police officers often stood in for Crown prosecutors during bail hearings, but as a result of the inquiry after his death, Crown prosecutors now handle bail hearings in Alberta.

Ron Worsfold

A St. Albert senior was killed in 2017 and a 28-year-old woman was charged with his murder.

Beryl Musila, a St. Albert resident, was charged with first-degree murder and indignity to human remains in the death of 75-year-old Ron Worsfold.

Worsfold went missing in 2017 and investigators found his body in a rural area of Parkland County.

Musila was a resident of the apartment complex that Worsfold managed.

Police would not say how or exactly where Worsfold’s body was found. They also would not say the exact cause of death, although they did rule it a homicide.

Musila is slated to go to trial for the murder from April 14 to May 1, 2020, at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton and has elected to be tried by a jury.

Humboldt Broncos tragedy

On April 6, 2018, the nation was shocked to learn the Humboldt Broncos team bus had crashed, taking the lives of 16 people and injuring another 13.

The bus was travelling from Humboldt, Sask., to Nipawin for what was likely to be the team's final game of the season when it was struck by a semi-truck in an intersection near Melfort.

St. Albert’s Logan Hunter, Jaxon Joseph, Stephen Wack and Conner Lukan died in the crash.

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, 29, pleaded guilty in early 2019 to dozens of charges stemming from the collision, including 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Sidhu’s sentencing hearing was in Melfort, Sask., where dozens of victim impact statements outlined the suffering and pain the collision had created.

The court heard Sidhu’s semi truck missed four warning signs for the intersection and blew through a stop sign, colliding with the Humboldt Broncos' team bus.

The driver had pulled over twice that day to secure his load and retie his tarps and said he was distracted by the loose flaps rather than the road in front of him.

Sidhu was sentenced to eight years.


Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

About the Author: Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Jennifer Henderson is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for Great West Newspapers based in St. Albert, Alta.
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