Alberta's Court of Appeal has reserved its decision on whether to alter a life sentence for Travis Vader, who was convicted of manslaughter in 2016 for the deaths of St. Albert's Lyle and Marie McCann.
Vader appealed his sentence Tuesday morning. Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear another appeal from him on his conviction.
Vader was sentenced to life in prison for killing Lyle, 78, and Marie, 77, with no chance of parole until spring 2020. He continuously denies killing the couple, whose bodies have never been found.
One of the reasons for his latest appeal is the logic used by the trial judge to determine his moral culpability in the deaths of the McCanns. Vader’s defence lawyer Nathan Whitling argued while it was determined that Vader did kill the McCanns, it could not be determined that he did so with a firearm.
Whitling said while it was proven that Vader robbed the McCanns and that there was a weapon discharged at some point, it is possible the McCanns died in a different way, such as a fight. If they did die from something other than a firearm, then Vader would have forseen the deaths of the McCanns less than if he discharged the firearm at them, and therefore has a lower level of moral culpability in the deaths of the couple.
“It was not known that they were killed by a firearm, and whether or not the McCanns were killed by a firearm is a very, very important consideration when sentencing in manslaughter cases,” Whitling said.
Whitling also appealed on the grounds that the sentence is not a fit and proper one.
“This is a demonstrably unfit sentence,” Whitling said.
Whitling said given the lack of proof on exactly how the McCanns died, Vader’s sentence range should stay in the mid-level for manslaughter, eight to 12 years overall, rather than the high life sentence he got.
The Crown, Jason Russel, argued the sentence for Vader was appropriate and said the outcome of the circumstances was escalated by the fact Vader had a weapon.
“It was proper for (sentencing justice Denny Thomas) to consider the risk associated with introducing a loaded firearm into a robbery when you know you are going to be in the confined spaces of a motorhome,” Russel said.
“It was not an error for him to make note of and consider the life threating possibilities that occur when you introduce a loaded firearm into a robbery."
Russell argued that because of this, the original justice did not err in his sentencing and Vader’s moral culpability was at the absolute highest you can get with manslaughter.
Russel also argued Vader showed no remorse and used the McCanns’ cellphone to make calls and used their money to buy cellphone minutes and beer. He argued Vader also disposed of and destroyed the bodies, and burned the motorhome and stolen vehicle he had used to commit the robbery.
Russel said he had a high moral culpability due to the deliberate application of force to the two victims.
The McCann couple was 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. Vader, who was 38 at the time, was arrested two weeks later near Niton Junction on warrants unrelated to the McCann case.