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Criminal

Travis Baumgartner sentence may not stand if appealed

EDMONTON – A judge has sentenced an armoured car guard who gunned down four of his crewmates during a robbery to life in prison with no parole for at least 40 years.

Justice John Rooke accepted a joint submission from the Crown and Travis Baumgartner's defence lawyer.

The sentence is based on a federal law passed in 2011 that allows consecutive parole terms in cases involving multiple murders. The Crown has called it a first for Canada and the toughest sentence for a crime since the country's last execution in 1962.

Rooke called Baumgartner a coward and a cold-blooded killer.

``The deaths were senseless,'' the judge said in an Edmonton courtroom Wednesday. ``It's difficult to describe the revulsion of society and this court and the public.''

Baumgartner, 22, pleaded guilty earlier this week to one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and a charge of attempted murder.

He shot his fellow guards during a routine night shift reloading bank machines at the University of Alberta in June 2012.

However, in an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, Toronto criminal lawyer John Rosen says, short of seeing the full judgment, he believes Rooke misinterpreted the law and the sentence of 40 years without parole - which the Crown has called the harshest since the last execution in Canada in 1962 - isn't legal.

If the judge relied on s. 745.11, says Rosen, partner with Rosen Naster LLP,  "He may be in error because the sentence relates to three murders arising out of one transaction, and the section requires a previous conviction before the one on which sentence is imposed. I believe that there are cases to this effect in other situations, so bottom line the sentence imposed may be illegal."

Rosen says the section allowing for the imposition of a consecutive period of parole ineligibility only applies to an offender, "who is convicted of murder, who has already been convicted of one or more other murders and for murders committed after December 2, 2011," Rosen says. "Therefore, where the murders for which Baumgartner is being sentenced occurred out of the same transaction and he is tried for or pleads guilty to them at his trial, he has not been previously convicted of murder so there is no authority to apply the section."

Court heard that Baumgartner was in debt after buying a new truck, owed friends money and had fought with his mother about paying rent in the hours before the shooting.

Rooke said Baumgartner could simply have taken the money and run rather than leaving three people dead and a fourth seriously wounded.

He said he had to find an appropriate sentence to make sure that Baumgartner never hurts anyone again, but also to give him some hope for freedom to ensure his good behaviour behind bars.

A statement of facts entered in court said Baumgartner used his company gun to shoot three of the guards as they had their backs to him, then returned to the waiting armoured truck and shot a fourth co-worker. The victims didn't have a chance to remove their own guns.

Court was told he had joked with a friend about robbing his employer and had sent a text that said: ``This is the night.''

Baumgartner killed Eddie Rejano, 39, a father of three who had started working for the company six months earlier; newlywed Michelle Shegelski, 26;, and Brian Ilesic, 35, the father of a daughter.

Matthew Schuman, who was 25 at the time, was rushed to hospital and survived a bullet to the head.

Police quickly named Baumgartner as a suspect after the early-morning shootings. He was arrested the next day in British Columbia at a Canada-U.S. border crossing. Police said they found $334,000 in a backpack he had with him.

© 2013 The Canadian Press

With Files From AdvocateDaily.com

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