Ryan Jake Applegarth, 30, was sentenced on Nov. 3, to eight years in jail, minus three-and-a-half years served for manslaughter, at the Wetaskiwin Court of King’s Bench.
Applegarth was convicted on April 7, 2022, of the fatal shooting of Jamison Samuel Louis, 34, on Jan. 3, 2020, in Wetaskiwin.
Applegarth attended the private residence, seeking to buy drugs. He had no money and Louis told him to come back later.
The court determined that about an hour later, Applegarth returned wearing a mask, showing only his eyes and glasses, and when the door was opened about 10 inches, he pointed a loaded firearm into the residence, pointing it at people inside, including a young child.
Louis then grabbed the barrel of the rifle, and during the struggle for the weapon, it discharged, and Louis died a short time later.
Applegarth was found not guilty of second degree murder, but guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter, because the Crown could not prove there was intent to discharge the firearm.
In the judge’s sentencing decision, the Hon. Stephen Hillier said while there is little evidence about Applegarth’s state of mind and Applegarth never explained his reason for returning to the residence, bringing a loaded firearm is a serious risk for bodily harm.
He also said the offence occurred at the victim’s home, where he was entitled to feel safe.
Applegarth was born and raised in Wetaskiwin and is a treaty status member of Samson Cree Nation.
Hillier stated Applegarth was in the care of a group home from aged 10 to 12, had some recollections of domestic violence as a child and was subjected to the influence of the criminal activity of others from an early age.
It was noted Applegarth had three prior youth offender convictions, and previous convictions for aggravated assault, assault and firearms-related charges and was under a lifetime firearm prohibition at the time of the offence.
“I find he has been disadvantaged from an early age,” said Hillier, also citing the over representation of Indigenous Peoples in the justice system.
Hillier sentenced Applegarth to the eight years, minus 3.5 years time served based on the formula commonly used of actual days served (843) multiplied by 1.5 for a total agreed upon time served credit of 1,265 days.
Hillier rejected an additional enhanced credit for serving time under difficult conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Applegarth was also sentenced to ancillary orders of a lifetime prohibition against owning any firearms, ammunition or explosives, to provide a DNA sample and the forfeiture of all items seized during the investigation.
Crown prosecutor Sarah Sager sought a 10-year sentence with the ancillary orders due to the aggregated factors, the gravity of the offence, and the relevant criminal history, and had suggested an enhanced credit of six-to-eight months time served.
Sager said the most generous interpretation of why Applegarth attended the residence was for intimidation, and as a result, there was a loss of life.
“There was no lawful purpose for him to be there in that manner,” she said.
There are also no mitigating factors in the case that would warrant a lower sentence, such as a guilty plea or show of remorse or determination to change, it was stated.
Defence lawyer Kenneth Sockett said it couldn’t be ignored that the judge had concluded there was no intent for the discharge of the firearm, as it went off during the struggle.
Taking all factors and reductions into consideration, Sockett asked for a sentence of five to seven years.
“We can’t bring back Mr. Louis. That’s unfortunate. All we can do today is apply the law.”
Joyce Crier-Tootoosis, maternal grandmother of Louis, read her victim impact statement aloud to the court.
Crier-Tootoosis said Applegarth knew little about the trauma, pain and tears he had caused, adding he took away the family’s right to see Louis succeed in life, and Louis’ right to see his young son and teenage daughter grow up.
“The day you cut his life short, there was no sunshine, no joy, no laughter … no desire to eat,” she said.
“He had no chance and no say in the tragic way his life was taken away from him.”
Crier-Tootoosis described Louis as hardworking and ambitious, with many friends, and said he had a desire to enlist in the military.
Crier-Tootoosis stated she had undergone a year of therapy to try to cope with the loss.
Louis’ younger brother Curtis Louis passed away four months after him. The two were close, and Crier-Tootoosis stated Curtis had only just returned from a camp job and the two had maybe an hour-and-a-half together before Jamison was killed.
Losing both brothers in such a short time span left “a big gap” in their lives, said Crier-Tootoosis.
“The Mighty Creator sees all … nothing and nobody escapes him,” she said.
“There will never be any closure.”
Two other victim impact statements, from Nicole Moonias and Jenelle Louis, were submitted to the court, but not read aloud.
Applegarth seemed unaffected by Crier-Tootoosis’ statement or the proceedings, keeping his head slightly lowered for most of the hearing and his eyes downward.
He appeared well-groomed, with two long braids and wearing a black top.
Sockett said Applegarth requested to be sent to a remand facility with cultural resources and programs, such as the Pe Sakastew Centre in Samson Cree Nation.
The centre is a a minimum security male correctional healing lodge which promotes effective reintegration of the Indigenous offenders (Correctional Service Canada).
Sockett said Applegarth is not a flight risk, and he would benefit from the interaction with elders and participating in cultural practices, such as sweat lodges, and being close to his home.
Applegarth stood when Hillier asked if there was anything he’d like to say to the court.
Applegarth said, “Not really,” and repeated that he’d like to be sent to Pe Sakastew.
“That’s all I want to say,” he said, and sat back down.
Hillier included a recommendation in his sentencing that Applegarth serve a significant portion of his sentence at Pe Sakastew, although it will be up to Corrections Canada where Applegarth will be sent.
Applegarth has also been charged with the second degree murder of Ponoka resident Chantelle Firingstoney.
Firingstoney, 26, was found deceased in a Ponoka residence on Nov. 5, 2020. Applegarth was out on bail at the time, having been charged with the killing of Louis earlier that year.
The trial for the Ponoka case is scheduled for May 1 to 5, 2023, at the Wetaskiwin Court of King’s Bench.
Ponoka Mayor Kevin Ferguson has spoken out about Applegarth being released on bail after being charged with a homicide, identifying Bill C-75, passed in 2019 by the federal government, as the main culprit.
The bill amended the Criminal Code the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts to increase access to bail and to “ensure that release at the earliest opportunity is favoured over detention, that bail conditions are reasonable, relevant to the offence and necessary to ensure public safety.” (justice.gc.ca)
Ferguson has been in correspondence with federal Minster of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti and provincial Minister of Justice Tyler Shandro.
Ferguson received the response from Lametti that he is “confident that Canadian laws surrounding bail provide the necessary framework to protect the public.”
In a recent interview, however, Ferguson said while he understood Lametti’s reasoning, that he can’t accept that answer.
When offenders are released, they don’t go back to the lawmakers’ community, they re-offend in their own communities, said Ferguson.
“There needs to be a better way, that’s both fair to the accused and to the victims. The scales just aren’t balanced for me,” he said.
“I just think the system needs a little bit of work.”
Outgoing Ponoka RCMP detachment commander Staff Sgt. Smiley has also publicly raised concerns about the bill and recidivism.
“What’s wrong with the (bail) criteria? Is it serving our most vulnerable communities?” said Smiley.