Top court appeal denied in Mayerthorpe RCMP killings

Dennis Cheeseman and Shawn Hennessey, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the shooting deaths of four RCMP officers on a farm near Mayerthorpe, Alta., in 2005, will not have their sentences reviewed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Two men who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the shooting deaths of four RCMP officers on a farm near Mayerthorpe, Alta., in 2005, will not have their case heard at the Supreme Court of Canada.

Shawn Hennessey, entering the Edmonton courthouse in 2009, will be eligible for day parole in January. ((CBC))

The top court rejected applications brought by Dennis Cheeseman and Shawn Hennessey for leave to appeal their sentences. As is its practice, the three-judge panel did not give any reasons for its decision on Thursday.

"It's a shock that they won't listen to the case. They won't listen to the sentences. It's a shock to the whole family," said Hennessey's father, Barry.

Colleen Myrol, the mother of slain Const. Brock Myrol, hoped that the issue is settled, now that the pair's legal options are exhausted.

"I'm just really hoping now that it's done," she said.

Hennessey and Cheeseman weren't on the farm when James Roszko shot the four Mounties and then himself on March 3, 2005, but they were charged as parties to the killings.

Cheeseman pleaded guilty in 2009 and was sentenced to nine years in prison, less 22 months’ credit for time already served.

Cheeseman was appealing his sentence of just over 7 years in prison. (CBC)

Hennessey pleaded guilty the same day and was sentenced to 12 years in prison, less 20 months’ credit for time already served.

Both argued their sentences were vengeful and too severe and they should be reduced since the men acted out of fear of Roszko. The Alberta Court of Appeal ruled against them last September.

The four RCMP officers — constables Myrol, Peter Schiemann, Anthony Gordon and Leo Johnston — were on Roszko's property to investigate a marijuana grow-op and auto "chop shop" in a Quonset hut.

In the agreed statement of facts accompanying their guilty pleas, Cheeseman and Hennessey admitted to driving Roszko to his farm. Hennessey also gave Roszko his grandfather's rifle, although that gun was not the one used to kill the officers.

Questions about RCMP's response 

The Mayerthorpe shootings raised questions about how the Mounties handle potentially dangerous situations in rural areas across the country.  A CBC investigation in 2008  raised the possibility that the charges against Cheeseman and Hennessey helped shield the force from concerns about its commanding officers' decisions and about the training and preparation of its members.

The RCMP went to extraordinary lengths to pursue the pair, staging an elaborate, 16-month undercover sting that used nearly 50 undercover officers, including a female who flirted with Cheeseman. The RCMP even put on a fake Christmas party that ended with Cheeseman going to a strip club with two of the male officers, who slipped the doorman $100 and paid for private lap dances.

But a fatality inquiry held in January concluded  that the killings were a "uniquely tragic event which could not reasonably have been foreseen or prevented."

"With the benefit of hindsight, many may claim to see how matters might have been handled differently," provincial court Judge Daniel Pahl wrote in his report. "The imposition of hindsight analysis is however, unreasonable.

"I am satisfied that the RCMP acted appropriately in all circumstances as they then knew them."