Edmonton

Killer's psychosis lowers his moral culpability, Alberta Court of Appeal told

A convicted killer chose his elderly victims long before he broke into their house "to sacrifice them," Alberta's highest court was told Tuesday.

Prosecutor argues convicted Edmonton killer should serve a longer sentence

Edward Kyle Roberts on the day he was taken into custody for the deaths of an elderly Edmonton couple. (Edmonton Police Service)

A convicted killer chose his elderly victims long before he broke into their house "to sacrifice them," Alberta's highest court was told Tuesday.

Edward Roberts is serving a 15-year sentence for the deaths of Joao Nascimento, 91, and his wife Maria, 81.

Roberts was originally charged with two counts of first-degree murder but instead pleaded guilty in November 2018 to two counts of manslaughter along with break and enter. 

Crown prosecutor Robert Fata told three Alberta Court of Appeal justices on Tuesday that the 15-year sentence imposed by a Court of Queen's Bench judge is not long enough. 

"It is my view that this appeal is about committing one manslaughter for free," Fata said. "There was no punishment for a second manslaughter." 

During the trial, the Crown asked for a 20-year sentence. Fata argued 20 years would better reflect the loss of two innocent lives. 

Roberts confessed that he broke into the couple's Queen Mary Park home in September 2016 and stabbed them with a steak knife. He had binged on crystal meth and had only slept two hours in the week leading up to the killings. 

Police found the bodies of Joao and Maria Nascimento in their central Edmonton home in September 2016. (Supplied/Tony Abrantes)

At the time, he thought he was destined to become a king, and believed he had to kill everyone in a house to achieve that goal.

Tried to fire his lawyer 

At the beginning of the Court of Appeal hearing, Roberts told the judges he wanted to fire his lawyer and represent himself. 

After hearing from the prosecutor, the judges gave Roberts 10 minutes to address them. 

"I am Christ himself," Roberts said. "I am King Edward Roberts." 

He told the judges he's entitled to the throne of England and that Queen Elizabeth is his grandmother." 

Roberts, 34, suggested that his victims were chosen long before he went into their house to sacrifice them. 

"He was a priest and she was a beautiful, intelligent woman," Roberts said. "The crown told me to go into that house and to kill them." 

The Queen Mary Park home where Joao and Maria Nascimento lived for 30 years. (Edmonton Police Service )

Roberts said he had reason to believe his life was in danger and he was in a psychotic state at the time. 

"It wasn't exactly the drugs that led to that state of mind," he said. "It was more of an energy."

After he finished speaking, Roberts decided to allow his defence lawyer to address the legal situation that brought them to court. 

Stacey Purser told the judges the 15-year term that was imposed was a fit and proper sentence, especially in light of what her client had just said.

"He demonstrates why the psychosis lowers the level of moral culpability," Purser said. "He's acting under the direction of various voices telling him to kill or be killed." 

The court reserved its decision.

About the Author

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston

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