Mountie charged in wife’s slaying makes first court appearance
EDMONTON — A speedy court appearance and a clerical error over a murder charge marked an Alberta Mountie’s entrance into the legal system after being charged in his wife’s slaying.
Const. Tirth Sehmbi, 36, was led into court Monday dressed in the blue coveralls issued to all prisoners who are in custody.
He’s charged with second-degree murder after his wife’s body was discovered in a southeast Edmonton home early Saturday morning.
Sehmbi stood quietly in the prisoner’s box for just a few seconds as a judge agreed to a defence request to adjourn the case until Aug. 12.
He appeared to be a little confused as he was quickly whisked back inside a locked prisoner’s area adjacent to the court room.
The court appearance was so fast, Sehmbi’s uncle wasn’t able to catch a glimpse of his nephew because he arrived a few minutes after the proceedings had started.
The unidentified man declined to make any comment.
Later in the day justice officials had to backtrack after a court document said that the Mountie had been charged with the more serious offence of first-degree murder.
“The information that was sworn and appeared in court this morning clearly had a typo or typographical error on it and he was charged with first-degree murder,” said Clifton Purvis, executive director of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team.
“We will have a new information sworn and put in court and we will proceed on the basis that it’s a second-degree murder charge.”
The team is the provincial body that investigates incidents involving police and is spearheading the homicide probe into the death of Sehmbi’s wife.
Sgt. Tim Taniguchi, an RCMP spokesman, said a friend of the dead woman’s family had been in contact with them and with the agency investigating the death. Her name has not been released.
He said Sehmbi was to be suspended from his job. The constable remains in custody.
At least initially, the constable will continue to receive a paycheque, but those payments could be stopped pending an internal review, Taniguchi said.
Sehmbi had been working in the traffic services division in Stony Plain, Alta., a detachment just west of Edmonton. He also worked as a dog handler, Taniguchi said.
The constable is an eight-year veteran of the RCMP. He has also served in other Alberta communities including Grande Prairie and Evansburg.
Taniguchi echoed previous comments made by Peter Hourihan, an RCMP assistant commissioner, who said on Saturday that there are programs to help Mounties who have personal or professional problems.
Hourihan said on Saturday that the Mountie was not on duty at the time of his wife’s slaying. He said the constable took his service weapon home with him, which is in keeping with police “operational readiness” policies.
While neighbours have said they heard what sounded like gunshots early Saturday morning, the cause of death has not been released.
Having a member charged with murder has been very difficult for Sehmbi’s colleagues, who were also coping with the death of another Mountie from the detachment who was killed in a highway collision in June, Taniguchi said
Const. Chelsey Alice Robinson was investigating a report of an impaired driver on Highway 16 west of Edmonton when her police vehicle collided with a semi.
“We have a process in place for critical incident debriefings. All these tragic incidents, especially when it involves our employees, has a toll on all our employees in the RCMP,” said Taniguchi.