Travis Vader’s life sentence for manslaughter in the deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann was too severe given the evidence, his defence lawyer argued Tuesday before the Court of Appeal of Alberta.
“This is a demonstrably unfit sentence,” lawyer Nathan Whittling told the panel of three judges at a hearing in Edmonton.
Vader was convicted of manslaughter in January 2017 in the deaths of the elderly St. Albert couple, who went missing in 2010 while on a camping trip.
He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for seven years.
After receiving credit for time served in custody before his conviction, Vader will be eligible to apply for full parole in March 2020, according to Parole Board of Canada documents.
Whittling argued that the trial judge, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Denny Thomas, made a mistake by assessing Vader’s culpability on the basis that discharging a firearm is likely to result in death, despite the lack of proof that the McCanns died in that manner.
“He was sentenced on the basis that he killed the McCanns with a firearm,” Whitling said. “There wasn’t proof that Mr. Vader did that.”
The defence also argued that the life sentence was too severe for the crime of manslaughter. Whitling asked the court to consider a global sentence of eight to 12 years instead.
Crown prosecutor Jason Russell argued that the trial judge didn’t make a mistake and said the sentence was fit.
“Mr. Vader’s moral culpability is the absolute highest,” Russell said.
He cited multiple aggravating factors in the case, including the fact that the victims were elderly and vulnerable, and that Vader had used a firearm while robbing them.
“He was aware of the risk that his actions posed,” said Russell. “This is a deliberate application of force on two victims.”
The bodies of Lyle McCann, 78, and Marie McCann, 77, were never found.
Russell said that Vader caused “considerable anguish” to the McCann family by refusing to disclose the location of the bodies.
Vader was not present in court.
The panel reserved its decision.