Wife of hunter killed in Alberta shooting tells murder trial about their final conversation
Jacob Sansom, 39, and his uncle Morris Cardinal, 57, were found dead on a rural road near in March 2020
Editor's note: This story has been rewritten by CBC News to include important context and details that were missing from the original file provided by one of our wire service providers. The original story did not make clear that specific elements of Sarah Sansom's testimony were in response to questions from the suspects' defence lawyers. The headline was also changed to better reflect the scope of Sansom's testimony.
The wife of one of the Métis hunters gunned down on a rural Alberta road two years ago broke down in tears on the witness stand Tuesday as she testified in a second-degree murder trial in Edmonton.
Jacob Sansom, 39, and his uncle Maurice Cardinal, 57, were found shot dead in March 2020 following a hunting trip.
Crown lawyers have said Sansom and Cardinal were followed by a vehicle and shot after a confrontation in a remote location about 215 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.
Roger Bilodeau and his son Anthony Bilodeau are charged with second-degree murder in their deaths. Both men pleaded not guilty on the first day of the jury trial in Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench.
On Tuesday, the second day of the trial, Crown lawyers presented Sarah Sansom with a package of 10 photos her husband Jacob Sansom had sent her by text message after they bagged a moose.
"These are the ones from that day," she said of the photos, her voice breaking.
"They were just proud."
Court heard on Monday that after the successful hunt, the pair arrived at a friend's house and began skinning and cutting the animal they killed earlier in the day. A group of five people shared a 15-pack of beer at the first house and then Sansom and Cardinal left for another nearby residence.
In her testimony Tuesday, Sarah Sansom told the jury she called her husband her Sweet Man.
During cross-examination by the defence, she also detailed another side of his personality when he started drinking.
But, she said Jacob Sansom had quit drinking two years before his death.
The issue of alcohol consumption was raised on the first day of the trial by defence lawyer Shawn Gerstel, who is representing the older Bilodeau.
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.
On Tuesday, defence lawyer Brian Beresh, the younger Bilodeau's lawyer, recounted a statement Sarah Sansom gave to police and read text messages she sent moments before a security camera captured her husband and the Bilodeaus as they confronted each other.
"You recall repeatedly telling the police that you were surprised or shocked when you learned that he had been drinking," Beresh asked during his cross examination of Sarah Sansom.
"Yes," she responded.
"You're saying, 'Don't drive,"' he said, quoting the text messages she sent.
"Then you add, 'No fighting, no driving, Please don't hurt yourself or (do) anything dangerous or illegal' because you knew that when he drank he had a tendency to become aggressive, correct?" Beresh asked.
"He wasn't aggressive. He just did stupid things like fighting very rarely," Sarah Sansom responded.
"He got stupid sometimes, and did stupid things," she later added during tense cross-examination.
"It was like falling down a set of stairs and stumbling all over the house – and making himself look stupid."
In his opening statement Monday, prosecutor Jordan Kerr said that the older Bilodeau saw the hunters' pickup truck slowly go by his home and it looked like one that had been on his property that day.
While following the hunters in his truck, Bilodeau phoned his son Anthony and asked him to follow behind and to bring a gun, said the prosecutor.
Security footage from a nearby gas station shows the Bilodeau men in their trucks following Sansom and Cardinal in theirs, Kerr said.
Court heard Roger Bilodeau and the hunters first stopped their trucks on the road. Anthony Bilodeau arrived soon after.
Within 26 seconds, he shot Sansom, then shot Cardinal as the hunter was taking cover by his truck, said Kerr.
A motorist called RCMP hours later after finding Sansom dead in the middle of the road and Cardinal's body in a ditch. Autopsies determined that Sansom was shot once in the chest and Cardinal was shot three times in his left shoulder, said Kerr.
On Tuesday afternoon, Jason Katish took the witness stand, disputing the wording of statements he gave to police after the men were shot.
Katish said Sansom and Cardinal came to his home unannounced after their hunt and skinned the moose at his home. They also came inside for beers and the offer of food. They stayed until around 9:30 p.m.
In the police statement, Katish said Sansom was loud, swearing, and behaving obnoxiously that night. Katish disagreed with some of the characterizations in court.
"Sansom for sure was getting rowdy," Beresh said in his cross-examination of Katish.
"Those weren't my words," Katish responded.
"He was getting loud and obnoxious," Beresh said.
"He was getting loud," Katish responded.
Katish said later that night they went to pick up more drinks from a friend.
"You're glad to see these guys leave because they were trouble, is that right" Beresh asked.
"That's false," Katish responded.
"Look witness, we're not playing here. In your assessment, they were drunk. Isn't that correct," Beresh asked.
"They were feeling good," Katish responded.
Katish later testified Sansom was drunk enough to stop feeling pain at "some level."
With files from The Canadian Press