Edmonton

Daughter in incinerator case spared jail

The daughter of an Alberta woman who shot her husband and tried to dispose of his body in an incinerator has been given a 12-month conditional sentence.
Laurie Semenovich, shown in a court sketch, listens to sentencing recommendations on Friday. ((CBC))
The daughter of an Alberta woman who shot her husband and tried to dispose of his body in an incinerator was given a 12-month conditional sentence Friday after admitting to her role in the April 2008 crime.

Laurie Semenovich, 52, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to manslaughter in the death of her father, Alex Semenovich, 77.

Before Justice Vital Ouellette retired to make his sentencing decision earlier in the day, he asked Semenovich whether she had anything to say.

Semenovich rose slowly and said haltingly through her tears: "I truly regret what I've done."

Semenovich received a similar sentence as her son, Brian Semenovich, 25, who pleaded guilty on Dec. 3 to interfering with human remains.

He received a one-year conditional sentence to be served in the community.

Laurie Semenovich's mother, Anne Semenovich, 74, pleaded guilty last month to manslaughter and was sentenced to four years in prison.

Alex Semenovich died after being shot while he slept in the early hours of April 15, 2008, on the rural property near Spruce Grove, Alta., where he and his wife lived. 

The court heard that Anne Semenovich endured almost daily death threats from her husband in the later years of their marriage, and that the pair fought regularly.

Crown wanted two-year prison sentence

Laurie Semenovich's lawyer, Dino Bottos, said the judge made the right decision in giving his client a 12-month conditional sentence, which also includes a daily curfew. He had argued for a 12- to 15-month conditional sentence to be served in the community.

"It's a tough balancing act," he said. "You have a good person who's never committed a crime before. She has what she feels is a strong duty to help and protect her mother."

The Crown indicated Friday morning it wanted Laurie Semenovich to spend two years in prison because she had advance knowledge of the crime and actively participated after the fact.

Afterwards, prosecutor Karen Thorsrud said she wouldn't be seeking an appeal.

An agreed statement of facts entered in court revealed Laurie Semenovich rejected her mother's original plan to put her father's body next to the chicken coop as it would be ravaged by coyotes.

Agreed with plan

However, Semenovich agreed with her mother's plan to put the body in the incinerator, the statement said.

"Doing the right thing for her mom was unlawful, but it was understandable," Bottos said. "Day after day, Laurie became haunted by what she had done."

"It's breathtaking to imagine the moral dilemma that faced Laurie Semenovich."

It was Laurie Semenovich who ultimately called the incinerator repairmen who discovered the body, effectively exposing the crime.

"She had to know the body would be discovered," Justice Vital Ouellette said in his ruling.

The court heard that every member of the family had been affected by life with Alex Semenovich — particularly in the last 10 to 15 years of his life where he became more volatile, prompting Laurie Semenovich to call Alberta Hospital, an Edmonton psychiatric facility, over concerns he was "unstable and a danger to her mother."

However, she was told the hospital couldn't intervene unless Alex Semenovich voluntarily sought help or if someone came to the house to interview the couple. 

Semenovich rejected the latter option after her mother worried that she would suffer repercussions from her husband, the court documents said.

 

 

 

With files from the CBC's Janice Johnston