EDMONTON — Sarah Sansom cherishes the last time her husband of 10 years kissed her before he left for a hunting trip in northern Alberta in late March. And she said she felt the moment he died, like a punch in the stomach.
“I knew when it happened,” Sarah told HuffPost Canada in an interview. “I felt it. I had pain and knew something was wrong. He was my soul mate.”
Jake Sansom, 39, was killed on the evening of March 27, along with his uncle Morris Cardinal, 57. RCMP said a verbal confrontation turned physical, and the pair were shot dead on a rural road near Glendon, northeast of Edmonton.
The three Sansom children haven’t slept alone since his killing. Two of them pile in with Mom at night, while the oldest sleeps on the floor next to the bed.
Bail denied to murder suspect
Anthony Bilodeau, 31, was charged with two counts of second-degree murder in April. Over the weekend, Roger Bilodeau, 56, was also charged with the same offences. RCMP confirmed the two, who are from Glendon, are related but have not revealed how.
The younger Bilodeau applied for bail Tuesday for a second time, and was denied.
Sarah drove almost six hours north from her home in Nobleford to be at the Edmonton courthouse Tuesday to try to make sure the accused remains behind bars.
“Do I wish them harm? No. But I’d love for them to sit there in jail for the rest of their lives and think about what they did,” she said of those responsible for her loved ones’ deaths.
Sansom and Cardinal, who were part of the Metis Nation of Alberta, had designated hunting rights, including out of season. They had gone into the woods to go moose hunting after Sansom was laid off as a heavy equipment operator at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sarah Sansom believes her husband, who was also a volunteer firefighter, and his uncle were killed because of racism.
“My husband was killed over it. It’s disgusting. It destroys families. To look at someone and take their life because of the colour of their skin,” said Sansom.
The RCMP have said they have no evidence at this point that the killings were racially motivated.
Byron Carr, who is part of the Métis Nation of Alberta, was among dozens of supporters outside the Edmonton courthouse Tuesday morning.
“It’s such a tragic loss. Everyone who has harvesting rights should be able to harvest in our own lands free of worry. We hunt in order to feed our families bellies and not get a bullet for it. I hope justice is served,” said Carr.
There were also people outside the courthouse in support of the two accused.
“There’s no racism in any of these hearts, not one ounce,” said a woman who identified herself as Anthony Bilodeau’s godmother.
Father Mark Sych added that the family “prayed for their souls” of the two dead Metis men.
Some of those opposing bail for Anthony Bilodeau shared their feelings through a megaphone.
“We all know too well the process you guys are going to go through,” Jade Tootoosis told the Sansom and Cardinal families on the courthouse steps. “And we know it’s not kind to Indigenous people. So we pass along our strength.”
“We’re broken into pieces.”
Tootoosis is the sister of Colton Boushie, 22, from Red Pheasant First Nation, who was shot and killed by a white farmer on his property in 2016. Gerald Stanley was acquitted of second-degree murder, which sparked protests across the country.
“We’re broken into pieces,” said Ruby Smith, who lost her brother as well as her son. “We won’t be able to put those pieces back again because Morris and Jake are those pieces.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, no funerals have been held. But Sarah is planning a celebration of life for Jake that will include traditional powwow singers, dancers and room for hundreds of people to attend.