Accused killer held in Stettler hospital for threatening suicide before murder

Savage escaped from hospital hours before allegedly killing a Stettler man

A man accused of killing Stettler man was being held at Stettler hospital after threatening suicide before escaping and allegedly killing a man, Crown prosecutor Gordon Hatch said in court Thursday.

John Roland Savage, 51, appeared in Stettler provincial court via closed circuit from Edmonton Remand Centre in his second court appearance Thursday.

Savage is charged with second-degree murder and seven counts of failing to comply with release conditions, theft under $5,000 and possession of a controlled substance.

Defence lawyer Jason Snider asked the court for an adjournment on the second-degree murder charge to set a date for a preliminary hearing.

Savage is scheduled to appear in court June 14 to set a hearing date.

Court heard on April 6, just before 2 a.m., Stettler RCMP received a report of a suicidal male with a machete.

He was arrested under the Mental Health Act.

“A machete was found concealed under his shirt,” said Hatch.

Stettler RCMP confirmed Savage was arrested in Stettler the morning of April 6 and taken to the Stettler hospital where he was placed under watch by hospital security.

Savage, however, fled the hospital sometime that afternoon – hours before he allegedly killed James Hulkovich, 70. Hulkovich lived about half a block from the Stettler hospital.

RCMP found Hulkovich dead in his Stettler home and made a plea to the public April 6 to help locate a white 2008 Ford F-150 truck belonging to the victim.

The next day, at about 8 p.m., police located the truck on Hwy 13 near Wetaskiwin and took two men and two women into custody. Savage was injured during the arrest, and he was taken to an Edmonton hospital.

Police released the other suspects without charges. While in the hospital, RCMP Major Crimes Unit (MCU) charged Savage April 10 with second-degree murder.

While in court Savage pleaded guilty to unrelated charges of failing to comply with release conditions and theft.

According to the crown, Savage was under conditions since Dec. 17, 2017, requiring him to live where approved and remain in his home from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day.

On Feb. 24, Stettler police did a curfew check at 10:16 p.m. and Savage wasn’t home.

Snider told the court Savage admits he got home late that day after his curfew.

On April 1, 2018, Savage was charged with stealing from Walmart. Crown told the court Savage self-scanned $66 worth of items at the checkout, but he left the store without paying. He was later identified through video surveillance.

Snider told the court Savage had difficulty paying for the items and was under pressure.

“He was on medication and made a bad decision,” said Snider. “Fines are appropriate for these offences. Savage was going through a rough time and it happened when he was under prescription drugs.”

The judge fined Savage $100 for breaching conditions and $200 for theft.

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