Mid-trial manslaughter plea leaves Calgary killer with 6 months left to serve
Michael Onischuk, 35, killed his friend Jessie Hanaghan, 37
Michael Onischuk started the week facing the possibility of a life sentence but after a mid-trial plea to manslaughter, he has less than six months left to serve.
The Calgary man was charged with second-degree murder in the death of his friend Jessie Hanaghan in October 2020.
Onischuk's trial began last week but on Monday he offered to plead guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter.
Prosecutor Vicki Faulkner and defence lawyers Andrew Phypers and Jeremy Newton proposed a sentence of four years in prison. With credit for the time he's spent behind bars pending trial, Onischuk has just under six months left to serve.
The facts admitted by Onischuk as part of his plea were watered down compared to what the prosecution alleged in its opening statement.
Hard drugs and a loaded handgun
According to an agreed statement of facts (ASF), Onischuk's girlfriend, Larissa Cowan was helping him move into Hanaghan's apartment on October 29, 2020.
One of the items they brought to the apartment was a loaded handgun.
Onischuk and Cowan were smoking "hard drugs," according to the ASF, when they got into an argument.
Cowan picked up the gun and pointed it at herself, according to the facts read aloud in court Tuesday.
Onischuk briefly wrestled with the firearm and it went off.
'Jessie was my friend'
The bullet travelled through Cowan's cheek — and the bedroom wall — and struck Hanaghan, who was watching TV in the next room.
"His death was accidental," reads the ASF.
In her opening statement, Faulkner told the judge that Onischuk aimed and fired the gun at Cowan.
On Tuesday, she told the judge there were problems with the civilian witnesses, none of whom wanted to testify. In fact, one disappeared for several days during the trial before she was arrested on a witness warrant.
Before he was sentenced by Court of King's Bench Justice Earl Wilson, Onischuk told the court he was "sorry."
"Jessie was my friend and I loved him so much."