A Red Deer man whose sawed-off rifle went off accidentally killing a mother-of-two was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison Friday.
Lyndon Olsen, 35, had earlier pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death using a firearm after Randee Lynn Stewart, 25, was shot and killed in Red Deer on the morning of Feb. 1, 2017.
Stewart was killed by a single gunshot wound when a rifle in a sports bag went off as Olsen tossed it into a pickup she was sitting in outside a townhouse complex near 54th Avenue and 43rd Street.
Video from a surveillance camera showed Olsen and Stewart had gone to a nearby townhouse moments before. Olsen pulled out a pellet gun several times, eventually shooting out a surveillance camera outside the townhouse door. He was also recorded taking out a sawed-off rifle and pointing it at the door although he did not fire.
Crown prosecutor Dominique Mathurin said Stewart was hit by a single bullet in the right chest.
Mathurin said Olsen drove the pickup in a “hurried and speedy fashion” to nearby Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre but lost control on the hill below the hospital and slammed into a light standard shorty after 6 a.m.
He ran to the hospital’s emergency department and told them of the crash and that Stewart had been shot before running off.
Fire-medics found Stewart lying in the passenger seat. She was not breathing and had no pulse.
Mathurin asked for a sentence in the high range of four to six years.
Olsen, who has been in custody since his arrest Feb. 6, 2017, has 106 prior criminal convictions dating back to his youth.
Defence lawyer Maurice Collard said the minimum allowable sentence of four years is appropriate for his client, who is remorseful, takes full responsibility for what happened and never intended to harm Stewart.
Collard showed the court the sports bag with a small bullet hole in one end created when the rifle inside went off.
“This is a case where chance played a big role in death,” he said.
Standing in the prisoner’s dock, Olsen expressed his sorrow for Stewart’s death.
“I still struggle every day with what I put you guys through,” said Olsen, who is Métis and held a feather throughout his court appearance.
“I never meant any harm to your daughter. I never would hurt her.”
Stewart’s parents, Dean and Brenda Stewart, and other family members read heartbreaking victim impact statements in court, telling the judge that Stewart’s two-year-old son and four-year-old daughter will grow up without their mother.
The family’s pain is “beyond words,” said Brenda.
“My heart is broken. I will never see my beautiful daughter again,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion. “She was so young. Our time together so short.”
Dean remembered Randee as a fun-loving and sweet young mother with a great sense of humour. She was always the first to be his ally when he was the victim of family teasing.
“Part of me died when I lost my daughter.”
Aunt Ann Plunkett said Randee’s children will constantly face questions about where their mother is as they grow up.
“How are we supposed to answer this? The truth is so painful.”
In sentencing, Justice Eldon Simpson said the video showed when Olsen was outside the townhouse armed with the gun he was acting in an “arrogant, aggressive and defiant manner.”
By throwing a loaded rifle into a bag, which he noted Olsen kept pointed away from himself, he was putting everyone at risk.
Simpson said he took into account Olsen’s guilty plea and a “horrifying” childhood, which included a broken home, stays in foster homes, abusive adults and drug and alcohol abuse. A brother was stabbed to death in 2005.
“You had a lousy start without a doubt, but you’ve now seen the terrible result of the decisions you made.”
Olsen was given credit for 23 months and 10 days in custody using a formula of a 1.5 days credit per day, leaving him with 30 months and 20 days to serve. He was also given a lifetime weapons prohibition and must surrender a sample of his DNA to a national database.