Chipman killer given five-year prison sentence for manslaughter

Raymond Nickerson, 40, was sentenced to five years in prison for the April 2017 shooting death of Jason Williams, a P.E.I. man who lived near him in Chipman, Alta.

Raymond Nickerson gunned down two neighbours in April 2017

Blood-stained front sidewalk in front of the house in Chipman where two men were shot. (RCMP/Court exhibit)

Raymond Nickerson has been sentenced to five years in prison for manslaughter.

The 40-year-old former Chipman, Alta., resident shot and killed two neighbours in April 2017. He was originally charged with two counts of second-degree murder but in January a jury found him not guilty in the death of Terry Sutton and guilty of manslaughter in the death of Jason Williams. 

Nickerson admitted he shot both men but testified during his trial he did so in self-defence.

Crown prosecutor Katrina Stewart Lund characterized the shot to Williams' head as a "careless intentional pulling of the trigger."

"He did not intend to kill Mr. Williams," Steward Lund said in sentencing submissions Tuesday. "This falls closer to near murder than the near accident end of the spectrum." 

Defence lawyer Akram Attia asked for the mandatory minimum sentence of four years and suggested the discharge of the shotgun was accidental or was done to scare Williams, who was a native of Prince Edward Island.

"This is as close as you can get to an accidental or unintentional causing of the death of Mr. Williams," Attia said. 

Both sides agreed that Nickerson was instantly remorseful and quickly left the scene to turn himself in so paramedics could do their work. 

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Eric Macklin called the situation "fluid, dangerous and extremely dynamic" and said he had no doubt that Nickerson and his wife were terrified when Sutton and his wife entered their home.

Long-standing feud 

There was a history of animosity between the two households, which the judge described as a "rural Alberta version of the Hatfield's and McCoy's."

Tensions boiled over on a Sunday night in April 2017, when Sutton and Williams lit fireworks that woke up Nickerson.

They yelled at each other, then Misti Sutton crossed the street with her husband in tow. 

Misti Sutton and Nickerson's wife got into a fight inside Nickerson's house. By that time, Nickerson had retrieved and loaded his shotgun.

He told the jury he was afraid and did not know if Sutton was armed. 

Nickerson testified he pulled the trigger when he thought Terry Sutton might wrestle away his gun. 

Blood on the floor just inside the front door of the Chipman house where Raymond Nickerson and his wife lived. (RCMP/Court exhibit)

He said when Williams suddenly appeared on his doorstep, he shot the man in the head.

On Tuesday, the killer apologized to both families. 

"I can't imagine the pain you must feel," Nickerson said. "I know I took two lives from you and I know there's nothing I can do or say that will bring them back."

He began to cry. 

"I was instantly remorseful and took responsibility right away," he said. "I didn't want or mean or intend for any of this to happen." 

'An absolute monster'

In a victim impact statement, Jason Williams' mother Debbie said she has had nightmares for the past four years. 

Terry Sutton and Jason Williams were best friends. (Facebook)

"You are an absolute monster who terrorized the entire community of Chipman," she told Nickerson via virtual link from her home in Prince Edward Island.

"I will never forgive you."


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.