Man guilty of helping Roszko in RCMP killings apologizes in court

One of the men who pleaded guilty to helping James Roszko kill four RCMP officers near Mayerthorpe, Alta., stood up and apologized in court Tuesday.

One of the men who pleaded guilty to helping James Roszko kill four RCMP officers near Mayerthorpe, Alta., stood up and apologized in court Tuesday.

"I would like to apologize for my involvement in this tragic event," Shawn Hennessey told the court. "I am truly sorry for the loss these families have suffered. In no way did I mean for any harm to come to anyone. I'm truly sorry."

Hennessey and his brother-in-law Dennis Cheeseman each pleaded guilty Monday to four counts of manslaughter in the deaths of RCMP constables Brock Myrol, Peter Schiemann, Anthony Gordon and Leo Johnston in March 2005.

When given the opportunity to make a statement, Cheeseman had less to say.

"My lawyer said everything for me," he told the judge.

Lawyers for Hennessey and Cheeseman argued Tuesday their clients should receive lighter sentences than the 10 to 15 years the Crown is seeking.

Hennessey's lawyer, D'Arcy Depoe, described his client as a "generous, helpful, loving father and husband, decent and hard-working."

He noted that neither man actually shot the officers, and said both Hennessey and Cheeseman were intimidated and fearful of Roszko.

He argued his client should receive a five-year sentence, which would actually work out to three years, once credit is given for the time Hennessey already spent in custody and other mitigating factors like the early guilty plea.

Dennis Cheeseman's lawyer, Peter Northcott is asking the judge to sentence his client to no more than four years in prison. 

Northcott argued his client just went along with what happened that night, and had wanted to warn the RCMP about Roszko.

The judge will announce his decision on sentencing on Jan. 30.

In an agreed statement of facts read to the court Monday, the two men admitted supplying James Roszko with a rifle, then driving him to his farm in the early hours of March 3, 2005.

Roszko had ranted in the car about wanting to "get even" with the RCMP.

Both men knew an armed confrontation could likely take place, but when Cheeseman suggested they call RCMP to warn them, Hennessey talked him out of it, because he was afraid of retaliation from Roszko, the statement said.

The RCMP officers all died from multiple gunshot wounds. Roszko then killed himself.

The sentencing arguments on Tuesday came a day after the reading of victim impact statements from families of the slain officers.

"Pain is a life sentence,"  Brock Myrol's mother, Colleen, told the court Monday afternoon. "I would give my life for one more hug."

Myrol's father, Keith, looked at both men as he read his statement. He said he thought of the slayings every time he hears the national anthem, sees the Canadian flag or hears a siren.

"A good night's sleep is a thing of the past," he said.

"I lost Brock. You took him. I suffer."

Kelly Johnston, wife of slain constable Leo Johnston,  told the court she lost her husband, her soulmate and her purpose in life the day Leo was slain.

"When I lost my husband, I lost my purpose," she said. "When Leo's heart stopped beating, so did mine."

Johnston's mother, Grace, wept while she gave her statement.

She asked Hennessey and Cheeseman what they were thinking when they decided to associate with a man like James Roszko.

"My so-called closure will come when I die," she said.

With files from the Canadian Press