'An act of savage cowardice': John Strang pleads guilty to murder of wife Lisa Strang

John Strang shot his wife twice with a revolver, once in the back and once in the head, while she was in the basement working on their monthly bills, a Regina courtroom heard Wednesday.

Judge expected to deliver sentence on Oct. 25

John Strang leaves the Regina courthouse on Wednesday afternoon. (Dann McKenzie/Radio-Canada)

John Strang shot his wife twice with a revolver, once in the back and once in the head, while she was in the basement working on their monthly bills, a Regina courtroom heard Wednesday.

Strang pleaded guilty to second-degree murder this morning, and also pleaded guilty to uttering a threat to Lynn Larsen, a married woman with whom he had become obsessed.

Strang, 50, was charged with the murder of Lisa Strang, 47, more than two years ago in the village of McLean, Sask. 

Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with a minimum of 10 years before parole eligibility. The Crown and defence made a joint submission asking for a life sentence with a minimum of 17 years before being eligible for parole.

Lisa Strang was the Saskatchewan Party's longest-serving employee, having worked for the party for 11 years. (Saskatchewan Party)

Marriage problems

In court Wednesday, Strang apologized for his crime. His attorney said Strang feels the loss of his wife as much as anyone, that he felt "outside of himself" when he shot his wife and that he didn't know why he killed Lisa.

The attorney later said the couple had bickered over money on the day of Lisa's murder.

People in the courtroom also heard that Strang's sterility caused friction in the 24-year marriage, and that Strang had bought the murder weapon with the idea of killing himself with it. 

The day of the crime

On July 31, 2015, neighbours in McLean overheard an argument between the couple from inside their home. The next day at noon a neighbour heard two loud bangs and saw Strang leave the home. 

Lisa had been in the basement doing what appeared to be their monthly bills. Strang shot her twice with a .357 revolver.

John Strang enters the Regina courthouse on Wednesday morning. (Matt Howard/CBC)

Strang then went on the run for 27 hours. During that time he went to visit Larsen at Rockford Ranch, her home. Strang asked her to go for a walk, which she declined. 

He then went on to tell her that he had fantasies of raping her and killing people. Then he told her that he had done something bad; he had killed his wife.

Larsen asked why he had killed Lisa. Strang said he didn't know.

Then he told her that she was lucky her grandchildren were with her, and left.

Strang was spotted near North Battleford by RCMP after contacting his lawyer. When speaking to the officers Strang said he had tried to kill himself with Viagra and Tylenol. 

In his Jeep police found several guns — all loaded, including the .357 used to kill his wife — knives, handcuffs, latex gloves, duct tape, explosives and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition. 

​Strang has been in custody since Aug. 3, 2015.

Debate over Strang's guns

On his way into court Strang made no comment to reporters, and during the day's proceedings showed little emotion. 

Crown attorney Kelly Kaip said there is a "profound problem" with domestic violence in Saskatchewan and the suggested sentence would send a strong message to reflect the impact Strang had on these two women.

Kaip has also asked for the forfeiture of all of Strang's guns, a prohibition from possessing firearms and a prohibition from contacting the victim's family. 

Lisa Strang was found dead in her home in the village of McLean, Sask., on Aug. 1, 2015. A manhunt for her husband began shortly after. (Dean Gutheil/CBC)

Kaip said Strang wants to give some of his guns to a friend, an idea Kaip opposes. She said Strang's Jeep was filled with loaded firearms when he threatened Lynn Larsen and that those should be among the weapons forfeited. 

Strang's attorney, Brian Smith, does not agree to the condition that Strang forfeit all of his firearms. He said that while the number of guns and ammunition in the Jeep "sounds alarming" to most people, it is not for an avid shooter.

The Crown's statement noted that Strang had no criminal record.

Family's victim impact statement

Lisa Strang was the Saskatchewan Party's longest serving employee, having worked for the political party as finance director for 11 years.

At the time of her death, Premier Brad Wall said her death had "left a hole" in the Saskatchewan Party family.

Her family wants Lisa to be remembered as an animal lover, a needle worker and a fan of both the Roughriders and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Prior to her death she had expressed her dissatisfaction with her relationship and told a co-worker that she wanted to leave John. She had lost more than 45 kg and was happier than she had been for some time. Co-workers described her as "glowing" as she prepared to leave her job for new opportunities. 

Lisa Strang's parents were the first to give their victim impact statements. Lisa Strang was their only child and the couple spoke of their future without Lisa and without grandchildren, but say they had lost her to John Strang many years ago. They say what he did was "an act of savage cowardice." 

'We miss you, Lisa,' says friend

Patrick Bundrock, the executive director of the Saskatchewan Party, gave a victim impact statement, calling Lisa "a dear and trusted colleague and valued member of our team and we will miss her tremendously."

Bundrock said she was a colleague but also a mentor and friend. Speaking directly to Strang he asked "Did my friend suffer?"

Patrick Bundrock, a friend of the late Lisa Strang, speaks to reporters outside the courtroom Wednesday. (CBC)

He said she was a meticulous and detail-oriented person who came in early and left late. He said she was famous in the office for her homemade baby blankets which she made for every newborn child in their "office family." 

"Thinking of all the families in Saskatchewan today who have a baby blanket from Lisa makes me happy," he said.

He said she remembered every birthday, milestone and life event. Regardless of the occasion Lisa would have a card and a smile ready for her colleagues and friends. 

"Through this tragedy we have all lost a friend, a gentle soul who cared about many and asked for very little in return," said Bundrock.

"We miss you, Lisa."

Outside court, Bundrock told reporters he was taken aback by one thing in particular Wednesday.

"Mr. Strang showed more emotion about the disposition of his firearms potentially than he did the victim impact statements," he said.

The judge will deliver her sentencing decision Oct. 25.

with files from Stefani Langenegger