Calgary man who strangled wife so she'd stop talking gets life with no parole for 10 years

Joshua Burgess says he strangled wife Shannon Madill three years ago because he "just wanted her to stop talking," then buried her in the backyard of their home in Calgary's Ramsay neighbourhood.

Shannon Madill 's body was found buried in the backyard of her home months after she disappeared in 2014

Shannon Madill, 25, was reported missing on Dec. 1, 2014, after failing to show up for a family event the day before. Her husband, Josh Burgess, was charged months later after her remains were found in their backyard. (Calgary Police Service/Facebook)

A Calgary man who says he strangled his wife because he "just wanted her to stop talking" and then buried her body in the backyard has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.

Joshua Burgess, 31, pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder in the death of his wife, Shannon Madill, 25, on the day his trial was to begin.

His admissions came as part of an agreed statement of facts read aloud in a Calgary courtroom.

Madill and Burgess had been in the process of a breakup when they got into an argument in November 2014.

She insulted him, saying she wished she'd never married him, according to the agreed statement of facts. 

After he killed her — strangling her with his hands and then his belt — Burgess put Madill's body in a plastic bin that sat through the winter on the patio of the home they shared in the Ramsay neighbourhood.

From left to right, Shannon Madill's brother Tyler, sister Erin and parents David and Lisa. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

When the ground thawed, Burgess dug a hole in the lawn and buried her there, covering her body in dirt and branches.

"I chose my lawn because I just didn't want her to leave," Burgess told police after his arrest seven months later.

The plea spared Madill's family from sitting through all the details and evidence that would be presented at trial.

"The details are gruesome, painful and undignified," said Court of Queen's Bench Justice Pat Sullivan. 

"We've lost physically one life. We've lost spiritually, emotionally many others including the accused."

'I lost my lifelong best friend'

The victim's family was in the courtroom for the hearing and some had prepared victim impact statements, which were read aloud.

It wasn't just heartbreak that members of Madill's family wrote about in their victim impact statements. Many also expressed a deep sense of betrayal from a man they had grown to love.

They noted how Burgess had pretended to grieve alongside them when Madill was missing.

"[He] kept us suffering for so long ... intentionally keeping us in limbo," said Erin Madill, Shannon's sister.

"I've lost myself," said Erin. "I lost my lifelong best friend."

Madill's father described his daughter as a talented performer whose death left him feeling lost and without purpose.

David Madill said his loving daughter, who was not vindictive or mean-spirited, would want "justice, not revenge."

"All that I'm left with now is the desire to protect Shannon's memory as best I can," he said.

Lisa Madill said this will be the fourth Christmas that her family will not decorate their home or put up a tree because it's simply too much to bear, given Shannon's passion for the holiday.

"She loved eggnog," said Lisa. "It doesn't feel right to decorate the house without her."

Still, in the spirit of her daughter, Lisa offered words of support to Burgess's family.

"I have a huge amount of compassion for Josh's mother," she said.

'I failed her'

Madill, an actress, was reported missing by her sister on Dec. 1, 2014, after she failed to show up for a family event on the previous day.

Seven months later, police discovered her remains at the home in the 1900 block of Spiller Road S.E.

Burgess was arrested in July 2015 and charged with second-degree murder.

When given the chance to address the court, Burgess apologized for the pain he'd caused.

"I'm very sorry for the vows that I made, that I promised to look after her, no matter what the circumstances were," said Burgess. "I failed her in that.

"For several months afterwards, everybody stood by me, unquestionably … I failed all of you in that and I am so very sorry for that and so very sorry that I didn't say something earlier."

Husband tried to slit his own throat

At the time of her death, Madill and Burgess were both dating other people and she was preparing to move to Edmonton. 

An employee at the 7-Eleven near the couple's former home said in the seven months that Madill was missing, Burgess would come in with a woman who appeared to be a new girlfriend.

The two would be very affectionate while waiting in line, kissing and holding hands, according to the employee.

In July 2015, police went to Burgess's home to execute a search warrant on his phone. But when officers showed up, Burgess wouldn't come out right away and told a detective over the phone that he had killed Madill, according to the agreed statement of facts.

After hours of negotiations, Burgess emerged but had tried to slit his own throat and was taken to hospital. Once released, he confessed to killing his wife during a police interrogation. 

Burgess has been in custody since being arrested.

Despite Burgess not being eligible for parole until serving at least 10 years in prison, Tyler Madill — who plans to attend all of the parole hearings — says "no amount of time will ever be enough" for his sister's killer. 

"I will be there to look him in the eyes," he said.