Brian Volker showed no emotion as he stood listening to the jury foreman confirming that a first-degree murder conviction had been delivered against him Tuesday night in Red Deer Court of Queen’s bench.
The jury deliberated for about six hours before finding the 50-year-old Delburne farmer and trucker guilty of the murder of his estranged wife, Debi, 44, and five other charges after the month-long trial.
Justice Doreen Sulyma adjourned final sentencing until this afternoon.
A first-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence with no parole for at least 25 years. However, there is a “faint hope” clause in the Criminal Code of Canada that allows prisoners who have been sentenced to life imprisonment with a parole eligibility period of greater than 15 years to apply for early parole after 15 years.
Volker was convicted of shooting his estranged wife in the head with a .22-calibre sawn-off rifle in her Delburne home on Feb. 23, 2009.
Leslie Jones, Debi’s father said later the two-year-old ordeal has been very difficult on the family but “justice prevailed” in the end.
“There was no doubt that he was guilty. It was 100 per cent,” a composed Jones said later.
He said that over time he hoped Debi’s children and the rest of the family can heal.
The three children aged 11, 14 and 16 at the time of the death, all testified at the trial.
“It’s been very tough on them,” Jones said.
As their grandfather he said they will “sit down some night” with his son Darryl and discuss the situation.
“He’s been looking after them very well to try and get their minds off this.”
Crown prosecutor Anders Quist said the case was tough to prosecute because of its complexities.
“It was a difficult case because there were some complicated legal issues.
“Any time you have a charge of first-degree murder you know the defence will put you to the test and you have to deal with many issues.”
Quist, Central Alberta’s chief Crown prosecutor, said the jury had many legal issues to deal with.
“They did so in an appropriate amount of time and we’re grateful to them for the time and effort they put into this.
“They stepped up and did a fine job.”
Quist said it was a trying time for the children.
“To talk about this . . . the very worst night of their lives, I’m sure.
“Yet they did a fine job. They have excellent family and professional support.
“They came through with flying colours.
“I couldn’t have asked for better witnesses then them,” Quist added.
The guilty verdicts on six counts were driven home to all those in the court when each juror repeated guilty six times on each count for a total of 72 guilty confirmations.
Quist also said someone in his office did research and found that this is most likely the first first-degree murder conviction in the Red Deer jurisdiction in almost 50 years.
Defence lawyers Patty MacNaughton and Roxanne Prior hurried quickly out of court and couldn’t be located later.
Court heard Volker went to Debi’s home in Delburne about 3 a.m. with a sawed-off .22-calibre rifle.
He killed Debi and left a suicide note at his home with documents setting out his affairs.
Volker was also convicted of a single count of break and enter and commit assault with a weapon. He was also found guilty of four counts of breaching conditions of a release from custody.
In her instructions to the jury, Sulyma spent more than two hours outlining the law and how it should be applied.
She stressed numerous times that the Crown must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt or the jury should find the accused guilty of the lesser offence of second-degree murder or manslaughter.
She said to find Volker guilty of first-degree murder the killing must have been planned and deliberate.
In addition, the Crown must have proved Volker shot his wife.
Sulyma told the jury they must put aside their sympathies and free themselves of all outside influences.
“You have a duty to assess Mr. Volker’s evidence. You can believe all or part of it or none of it,” the justice said.
The accused testified that he didn’t remember anything after 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 22, 2009, when he claimed he took five sleeping pills and two ounces of straight alcohol.
Volker said he remembered waking up on the afternoon of Feb. 24 some 38 hours after he took the five sleeping pills which were 15 mg each called oxazepam.
Sulyma said the Crown didn’t have to prove Volker had motive to kill his estranged wife.
She said Debi Volker and their children left him in November, 2008 and she notified him a few weeks before her death she wanted to divorce him.
During closing arguments last week, Quist pointed to the accused’s suicide note as a sign of premeditation.
Volker’s oldest son, who was 16 at the time, also testified that he saw his father in the victim’s bedroom the night of the shooting holding a shortened firearm.
MacNaughton asked the jury to consider Volker’s state of mind the night the crime took place and to note that the firearm was never actually found.