Calgary

Alberta extortionist who demanded $1M found guilty of 1st-degree murder

A man in Medicine Hat, Alta., has been found guilty of murder and extortion in a bizarre case involving a demand for $1 million, a threat of murder and a victim who was found dead 24 hours later. 

Jurors in Medicine Hat began deliberating early Wednesday afternoon

Prosecutors say James Satre, 63, pictured here, was killed in Medicine Hat, Alta., in 2017 as part of a plot to prove the seriousness of a demand for $1M after a threatening letter was sent to a local businessman. (Saamis Memorial)

A man in Medicine Hat, Alta., has been found guilty of first-degree murder and extortion in a bizarre case involving a demand for $1 million, a threat of murder and a victim who was found dead 24 hours later. 

For the past three weeks, jurors in the city about 300 kilometres southeast of Calgary have heard evidence in Robert Hoefman's trial, with deliberations beginning Wednesday just after noon.

A first-degree murder conviction comes with a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. A sentencing hearing will take place at a later date. 

On Oct. 10, 2017, a businessman in Medicine Hat received a letter demanding $1 million with a threat that if he didn't pay up, somebody would be murdered. 

One day later, the body of James Satre, a random target, was discovered in a Medicine Hat alley. He had been fatally stabbed. 

'We will show you'

Prosecutors argued the murder was an intimidation tactic by Hoefman to scare the extortion victim into giving up the money.

The extortion victim's identity is protected by a publication ban.

The first in a series of threatening letters arrived at the extortion victim's business on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving Monday, 2017.

"On Day 2, we will show you exactly what we can do," it said.

"Just hearing that an individual was brutally murdered on the radio should be enough," the letter said in part.

The author of the letter wrote that they'd been watching the man and his wife for weeks.

Letter sent to news agency

The man testified he immediately called police and alerted his staff and family. 

In the following days, more letters were received including one sent to a Medicine Hat news agency that claimed responsibility for Satre's death and blamed the extortion victim and police for not following the exact demands. 

Prosecutors presented evidence to jurors including a search warrant executed on Hoefman's home, where police seized a laptop, USB memory sticks and a paper shredder. 

On the electronics, police found copies of letters similar to the ones sent to the extortion victim.

Hoefman's DNA was ultimately found on the extortion letters and at the murder scene.

Defence lawyers Ian McKay and Heather Ferg suggested the extortion victim's former business partner was responsible for the crimes. 

Initially, even the recipient of the letter believed his former partner was behind the extortion.

The former partner owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the letter recipient and the two were embroiled in court proceedings to the point that a writ of enforcement had been issued following arbitration and a receiver appointed through the courts.


Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach her at meghan.grant@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @CBCMeg. You can read more of her recent stories here:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary crime reporter

Meghan Grant is a justice affairs reporter. She has been covering courts, crime and stories of police accountability in southern Alberta for more than a decade. Send Meghan a story tip at meghan.grant@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter.

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