Accused in fatal shooting of Métis hunters in rural Alberta plead not guilty

Roger Bilodeau, 58, and his son Anthony, 33, are both charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the March 2020 shooting deaths of Jacob Sansom and his uncle Maurice Cardinal. The two-week jury trial began Monday.

Jury views video of confrontation on first day of Roger and Anthony Bilodeau 2nd-degree murder trial

Jake Sansom (left) and Maurice Cardinal were hunting near Siebert Lake when they were shot to death in March 2020. They took this photo on the day they were killed. (Submitted by Mike Sansom)

An Edmonton jury will have to decide if the fatal shooting of two Métis hunters was a deliberate crime or an act of self-defence. 

In March 2020, Jacob Sansom, 39, and his uncle Maurice Cardinal, 57, were gunned down in a remote location outside of Glendon, Alta., about 215 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. 

Roger Bilodeau, 58, and his son Anthony, 33, are both charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Sansom and Cardinal. Both men pleaded not guilty Monday in Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench. 

Sansom and Cardinal spent Friday, March 27, hunting moose. They arrived at a friend's house and began skinning and cutting the animal they killed earlier in the day.

The jury heard that a group of five shared a 15-pack of beer at the first house and then Sansom and Cardinal left their friends to go to another nearby residence. 

Crown prosecutor Jordan Kerr told the jury that the hunters passed by the rural property owned by Roger Bilodeau. 

"As he drove past the property, he slowed down and possibly stopped briefly and then continued to drive his truck south," Kerr said in his opening statement Monday afternoon.

"Roger and his son Joseph were inside the house near a window looking out toward the roadway when Sansom slowed down or stopped." 

Kerr said Bilodeau was "deeply suspicious" because earlier in the day, the family had seen a couple of similar-looking vehicles on their property. 

Roger Bilodeau decided to chase the vehicle down. He got in his truck with his 16-year-old son Joseph and began a pursuit that lasted for about six minutes and reached a speed of 152 km/h.

The jury heard that along the way, Bilodeau called his son Anthony, who lived nearby. 

"These sons of bitches are coming to steal or do something," the Crown said Bilodeau told his son.

Kerr said Bilodeau told Anthony to bring a gun because he was not armed and he didn't know if the others were.

The two vehicles stopped at a T intersection that happened to be next to a building with a motion-activated surveillance camera. 

The entire altercation was captured on video with no sound that was played for the jury. 

'Please don't kill my dad'

It will be up to the jury to decide exactly what happened in the lead up to the fatal shootings.

The Crown said Sansom got out of his truck and approached the rear of Bilodeau's vehicle. Roger Bilodeau put his truck in reverse, forcing Sansom to move to avoid getting hit. The Crown said Sansom did not appear to be armed.

Kerr said Sansom went to the passenger side and appeared to hit the window a number of times. 

Roger Bilodeau's defence lawyer Shawn Gerstel said Sansom "smashed the window on the passenger side with his bare fist" and then began attacking Bilodeau's teenaged son in the passenger seat and tried to pull him out of the vehicle.

Gerstel said an autopsy revealed that Sansom had a blood alcohol content level that was 2.9 times the legal driving limit at the time of his death. Cardinal's level was 1.7 times the legal limit. 

"Mr. Sansom was also observed with his forearm across Roger's neck, choking him according to Joseph," Gerstel said. "During the attack you will hear that Joseph was screaming and pleading with Mr. Sansom and I quote, 'Please don't kill my dad. Please don't hurt him.'"

Two minutes after the first two vehicles came to a stop at the intersection, Anthony Bilodeau pulled up and got out of his truck. 

Gerstel said the video shows Sansom "charging" toward Anthony. 

The defence lawyer alleges that at that point, Cardinal retrieved a firearm. 

"Joseph will tell you that as Sansom moved towards Anthony, he said, 'I'm going to f--king kill you.'"

Sansom was shot once in the chest. His body was left in the middle of the road. 

An autopsy showed Cardinal died from one or more of the three distinctive wounds to his left shoulder. His body was left in a ditch. 

After a brief conversation, the Bilodeaus left the scene. The victims' bodies were discovered hours later when an area resident was driving home. 

Key issue for jury 

The Crown alleges that Roger Bilodeau "clearly anticipated a confrontation" when he recruited his son and told him to bring a gun. 

"Anthony Bilodeau's actions were in no way justified killings," Kerr told the jury. "There is no self-defence here."

But the defence insisted that Roger Bilodeau only wanted to find out why the vehicle had stopped on his property and that he never expected a violent confrontation. 

"At no point did he expect anyone to be shot or hurt," Gerstel said. 

The trial is scheduled to last two weeks. 


Janice Johnston

Court and crime reporter

Janice Johnston is an investigative journalist with CBC Edmonton who has covered Alberta courts and crime for more than three decades. She won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award in 2016 for her coverage of the trial of a 13-year-old Alberta boy who was acquitted of killing his abusive father. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca.