By Daniela Germano in Hinton
The father of a woman who was killed along with her 16-month-old son says he battles with nightmares and will forever be haunted by the image of their lives being taken “at the hands of a monster.”
Stuart Busch’s victim impact statement was one of 20 submitted to the Court of King’s Bench in Hinton, Alta., at the sentencing hearing Tuesday of Robert Major.
Major pleaded guilty in May to two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Mchale Busch, 24, and her son, Noah McConnell.
He received an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Busch and her son were found dead in an apartment complex in Hinton, about 250 kilometres west of Edmonton, on Sept. 17, 2021.
The woman and her partner, Cody McConnell, had moved into an apartment next to Major’s three weeks earlier.
“It frightens me to the bone that these people live among us,” Stuart Busch said of Major.
“I struggle to try and figure out what level of evil can exist in a person that willingly and purposely takes the lives of two innocent people with his bare hands with zero remorse and with what seems to be no external motivation.”
Parole Board of Canada documents show Major, a registered sex offender, was sentenced to almost four years for an offence in 2012, in which he took a toddler from a babysitter’s care for an unsupervised walk and sexually assaulted the child.
Edmonton police later issued a warning about Major being released into the community, saying there was a chance he could harm women and children.
The Crown has said it isn’t known how Busch ended up in Major’s apartment, but that is where he sexually assaulted her, strangled her and mutilated her body.
Court heard Major then suffocated the child by stuffing a sock in his mouth and putting a plastic bag over his head. His body was found by a police officer at a dumpster on the grounds of the apartment complex.
Busch’s body was then found inside Major’s apartment.
Her mother, Karen Busch, said she wrote her victim impact statement in April when her grandson would have had his second birthday.
“We should be celebrating our only grandson’s second birthday, instead it’s a day filled with tears and sadness,” she said in a video played in the courtroom.
She said her daughter and grandson were “two of the most precious people in my world.”
“They were victims of the worst imaginable crime,” she said, adding the randomness of their deaths “is just surreal.”
“Our grief and emptiness are an overwhelming part of each day,” she said. “Our hearts will forever be broken.”
Mary Urzada said the mother and son were “truly a ray of sunshine in this world.”
“As McHale’s best friend, I can say watching her become a mother was the most beautiful transformation.”
She said she was on the phone with Busch hours before the killings. Urzada said she heard Major knock at the door, introduce himself as a neighbour and offer to clean up mud marks on the hallway carpet.
Court heard that the building manager had ordered Busch to clean the mess supposedly left from McConnell’s work boots.
“A man who just seemingly went out of his way to be kind to them would come back to kill them both,” Urzada said.
While reading her victim impact statement, she turned to Major and said, “I heard you.”
“I wanted them (police) to look at you from the very beginning.
“Despite McHale telling me you were kind, and despite Cody telling me that evening that there’s no way it was the little old man next door who hurt his family … I followed my gut and told everyone who would listen to me that you needed to be looked at.”
McConnell submitted his victim impact statement to the judge, but it was not read out in court. He said outside the courthouse that he wasn’t able to speak because of “too much raw emotion.”
“My friends and family spoke for me and I will forever be grateful.”
McConnell said he was pleased with the outcome but that justice for his partner and son is not over.
Since their deaths, he and his family have pushed for “Noah’s Law,” which would make changes to minimum sentences and public disclosure rules for sexual and dangerous offenders.
“We got to keep fighting for Noah’s Law so their names don’t go in vain,” McConnell said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2022.
TC Energy shuts down Keystone pipeline system after leak in Nebraska
CALGARY — TC Energy Corp. says it has shut down its Keystone pipeline after a leak in Nebraska.
The company says it has mobilized people and equipment in response to a confirmed release of oil into a creek, about 32 kilometres south of Steele City, Neb.
TC Energy says an emergency shutdown and response was initiated Wednesday night after a pressure drop in the system was detected.
It says the affected segment of the pipeline has been isolated and booms have been deployed to prevent the leaked oil from moving downstream.
The Keystone pipeline system stretches 4,324 kilometres and helps move Canadian and U.S. crude oil to markets around North America.
TC Energy says the system remains shutdown as its crews respond and work to contain and recover the oil.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.
Companies in this story: (TSX:TRP)
The Canadian Press
Two deputy chief medical officers resign from their positions with Alberta Health
Edmonton – Alberta’s two deputy chief medical officers of health are leaving their roles — less than a month after Dr. Deena Hinshaw was removed as the province’s top doctor.
Health Minister Jason Copping confirmed during question period Wednesday that both of the doctors have submitted letters of resignation.
“They are still continuing to work at this point in time,” he said in the legislature. “We are in the process of actually looking to fill those roles.”
A statement from Alberta Health said Dr. Rosana Salvaterra and Dr. Jing Hu, who are listed as public health physicians on the department’s website, have given notice.
When reached by her department email, Salvaterra responded: “Unfortunately, we are not able to comment.”
She later added that she respects and admires both Dr. Hinshaw and Dr. Hu.
“They are brilliant, hard-working, and compassionate public health physicians and I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to work alongside them for these past 14 months.”
Salvaterra, who has extensive public health experience including as the medical officer of health for Peterborough, Ont., joined the office in October 2021.
Her career in public health includes work in “the COVID-19 response, mental health, the opioid response, women’s health, poverty reduction, health equity, community food security and building stronger relationships with First Nations.”
Hu’s out-of-office message said her “last day at work with Alberta Health was Nov. 18, 2022,” and noted she wouldn’t have access to the department email after that date.
She got extensive training in China and at the University of Calgary before joining the health department in January 2020.
Their resignations came within a month of Hinshaw, who became the face of Alberta’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, being removed from her position.
Hinshaw was replaced by Dr. Mark Joffe, a senior executive member of Alberta Health Services, on an interim basis.
“Dr. Joffe will be supported by medical officers of health within AHS, by other staff in the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, and by the Public Health Division,” said the statement from Alberta Health late Wednesday.
“We expect these changes to have no impact on the department’s and Dr. Joffe’s ability to meet the requirements of the Public Health Act.”
Hinshaw’s dismissal didn’t come as a surprise.
Premier Danielle Smith announced on her first day in office in October that she would be replaced.
Smith has made it clear that she blames both Hinshaw and Alberta Health Services for failing to deliver the best advice and care for Albertans as the hospital system came close to buckling in successive waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of the bad decisions were made by Alberta Health Services on the basis of bad advice from the chief medical officer of health,” Smith told reporters on Oct. 22.
Smith has not placed the blame on front-line doctors and nurses but broadly on AHS senior management. Joffe, while serving as chief medical officer of health, retains his role in AHS senior management as a vice-president responsible for areas in cancer and clinical care.
Hinshaw, an Alberta-trained public health specialist, became a celebrity of sorts in the first wave of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, as she delivered regular, sometimes daily, updates to Albertans on the virus, its spread and methods to contain it.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.
— By Colette Derworiz in Calgary.
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