4 convicted Alberta multiple murderers can now apply for parole earlier in wake of Supreme Court ruling

4 convicted Alberta multiple murderers can now apply for parole earlier in wake of Supreme Court ruling thumbnail

An Alberta court has granted the appeals of four convicted multiple murderers, giving them all the chance to apply for parole after serving 25 years.

On Friday, in three separate cases, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that Derek Saretzky, Edward Downey, Joshua Frank and Jason Klaus will all have their sentences varied to make parole ineligibility periods run concurrently.

The court of appeal’s decisions mean the four men can be eligible for parole at an earlier date — compared to the parole eligibility dates that were initially handed to them when they were sentenced.

The decisions follow a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in May that decided Alexandre Bissonnette, the gunman who killed six men at a Quebec City mosque in 2017, will be allowed to apply for parole after 25 years.

Canada’s highest court found sentencing rules, that allowed judges’ discretion to hand out consecutive parole ineligibility periods, unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court said those punishments “bring the administration of justice into disrepute” and are “cruel and unusual by nature.”

Eligibility to apply for parole does not mean it will be granted, and a life sentence means an offender will be either in prison or on conditions for their entire lifespan.

Saretzky, a former resident of Blairmore, Alta., was convicted in 2017 for three counts of first-degree murder in the 2015 deaths of Terry Blanchette, his two-year-old daughter, Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, and a neighbour, Hanne Meketech, 69.

Saretzky was originally sentenced at age 22 to life in prison, with no chance of asking for parole until he is 97.

His lawyer, Balfour Der, said the reduced parole ineligibility gives Saretzky an opportunity to apply for parole when he is 47 years old.

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“There’s a big difference between a 22-year-old and a 47-year-old, and a lot of maturing can go on in between. So now he’s got something to live for. He’s got some hope,” said Der.

“It gives him the chance to make himself better, to rehabilitate, to do whatever he can, to make himself a productive citizen in the hope that he might get parole.”

Klaus and Frank were sentenced to life in prison for three counts of first-degree murder after the bodies of Klaus’s father and sister were discovered in their burned-out farmhouse near Red Deer, Alta., in 2013. His mother’s body was never found.

Edward Downey was given a life sentence after a jury convicted him of first-degree murder in the deaths of Sara Baillie and her daughter, Taliyah Marsman, 5, who were killed on July 11, 2016.

All three men had their parole ineligibility reduced by half — from 50 years to 25 years.

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