76-year-old's plea deal in drug-related killing 'devastating,' says widow of slain Sask. man
'I think it was the appropriate resolution,' Crown says as Robert Arams given 6-year sentence in 2018 homicide
It was a drug deal gone wrong.
Robert Arams, 76, of Gravelbourg, Sask., has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of Claude Landry in July 2018.
According to court documents, a witness said Arams — a small-town drug dealer — argued with Landry during a crack deal and shot him.
Arams was initially charged with first-degree murder and committing an indignity to a body.
At the Court of Queen's Bench in Moose Jaw on Wednesday, he entered guilty pleas for manslaughter and moving the body. He was given a six-year prison sentence for the manslaughter charge after a joint submission by the Crown and the defence.
His sentence for the indignity charge is still to be determined.
- Body of Claude Landry discovered by RCMP
- Man gets 18 month conditional sentence for indignity to remains of homicide victim
Two others — David Earl Prentice and Shauna Prentice — have been convicted on related charges.
In April, David pleaded guilty to dragging Landry's body with chains behind an ATV and was given an 18-month conditional sentence. In May, Shauna pleaded guilty to public mischief and was given a three-month sentence in the community for lying to police. Both were also ordered to undergo addictions treatment.
Landry's last breath
Landry, a father of five from Quebec, lived in the village of Kincaid, in southwest Saskatchewan, with his partner and 13-year-old daughter. He did odd jobs for people in the Gravelbourg area and was well-known around town as a drug addict.
An agreed statement of facts presented at David's sentencing describes David's version of events. The statement could not be reported while Arams was still awaiting trial.
On the evening of July 12, 2018, the Prentices picked up Landry and went to Robert Arams's rural property to buy crack.
Shauna went inside to get the drugs, while David and Landry stayed outside. Landry became impatient and "started banging and yelling for Shauna to hurry up."
At that point, Arams walked outside with a gun and pointed it in the direction of both David and Landry. The court statement said that Arams was "already upset with Landry as he had previously suspected Landry of stealing from him."
David saw Arams holding the gun and Landry holding the gun's barrel with one hand.
He heard Arams say, "'Don't grab the gun. Don't take another step or I'll shoot you.'"
According to David, the gun went off once and Landry was shot in the stomach. David said he knew that Landry was dead and that he "watched him take his last breath."
In the agreed statement of facts, David said that Arams, still holding the gun, ordered him to put on rubber boots and help move the body with an ATV, as he was worried that "other drug users would be coming by the property to purchase drugs."
After they disposed of the body in tall grass in a dugout, Arams gave David and Shauna "a substantial amount of crack ... and made them consume it at his residence, before letting them go."
Court records said that Arams later moved the body two other times.
On July 12, 2018, Landry's daughter posted online that he was missing. RCMP called his disappearance suspicious and, after receiving some tips from locals, arrested Arams that weekend.
Shauna told police that the three of them had been "driving around and doing drugs," but that Landry had been dropped off in Gravelbourg, a town about 150 kilometres southwest of Regina.
A week after Landry disappeared, David spoke to the Gravelbourg RCMP and was then admitted to the Moose Jaw hospital under the Mental Health Act.
The next day, Shauna was arrested and confirmed that the Prentices were at Arams's farm "when Landry was shot and killed and didn't tell police because they were afraid for their lives."
She said she didn't see who shot Landry, but "said Arams went outside with a long-barrelled gun. She heard a 'bang' and a few minutes later, Arams came back inside saying 'He won't be coming back.'"
Arams was charged with first-degree murder in Landry's death and improperly offering an indignity to human remains a day after Shauna's statement. Court documents state that Arams didn't confess in his official police interview, but later disclosed the location of the gun and the body to an undercover police officer.
Outside court Wednesday, Crown prosecutor Rob Parker said he's satisfied with the manslaughter conviction. Police weren't able to find evidence to support the earlier charge of first-degree murder, he said.
"The police worked very hard on this case, and I think it was the appropriate resolution based on what the Crown would have been able to prove had the matter proceeded to trial," Parker said.
Landry's widow, Marie Moldovan, said it was difficult to accept the plea bargain.
"That is devastating, in my mind, 'cause it's like, how can you do that? You took the life of somebody and you get to negotiate — like, basically barter — how much time you serve," Moldovan told CBC News outside the courthouse.
"[Landry] is not there to tell his story. You have a lopsided version of events," she said.
Moldovan resents the fact no one at the Arams farm that day tried to assist Landry.
"They say he died immediately afterward. But how do we know that if an ambulance was called … they couldn't have saved his life? No steps were taken for care for Claude."
In her victim impact statement, Moldovan said that he was "a beautiful soul, with a kind heart."
Landry's teenage daughter described how difficult it has been to lose her father.
"My dad was not perfect, but he was my friend," she said.
The Crown wants Arams to serve an additional year in prison for committing an indignity to the body. The defence disagrees.
The judge will deliver his decision on that matter in December.
- An earlier version of this story indicated Robert Arams is 75 years old. In fact, he is now 76.Oct 31, 2019 11:56 AM CT
with files from Emily Pasiuk and Sophie Chevance