EDMONTON—Sarah Sansom wiped away tears Tuesday as she looked at some of the last photos of her husband taken before he was gunned down on a rural road, and she was questioned by a defense lawyer about her husband’s drinking habits.
On the witness stand, Sansom described her husband, Jacob Sansom, 39, as a passionate hunter and a skilled jiu-jitsu fighter who “never picked a fight” but who would defend himself.
She said Sansom hadn’t drank in about two years, but that she found out — just before he would go on to be shot — that he had been drinking that night in March 2020.
“When Jake drinks, he’s stupid,” Sansom said. “But a lot of people are stupid when they drink.”
She was testifying at the trial of Anthony Bilodeau, 33, and his father, Roger Bilodeau, 58, who have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the deaths of Jacob Sansom and his uncle, Morris Cardinal, 57.
The two Métis men went hunting in eastern Alberta and never came home, their deaths sparking international headlines.
At issue in the trial is not who shot the men — video has shown Anthony Bilodeau shooting the pair — but whether the Bilodeaus intended to kill the hunters or whether they were acting, as their lawyers contend, in self-defence.
Sarah Sansom testified Tuesday that the two hunters set off to kill a moose in late March because the COVID-19 pandemic might be making times tough and they wanted to ensure their family had food. After a successful hunt, she said, the two went to a relative of Cardinal’s just north of Glendon on March 27.
Sansom testified that, during a phone call around 9:15 pm, Jacob Sansom was “happy” and “maybe a little tipsy” until she got angry with him for breaking his sobriety. The two hunters would be shot about a half-hour later.
Brian Beresh, Anthony Bilodeau’s lawyer, zeroed in on Jacob Sansom’s behavior while drinking and repeatedly asked Sarah Sansom if his behavior changed while, or if he became violent or drunk. Beresh also said that Sarah Sansom had told police that Jacob Sansom could become blackout drunk after just three drinks.
Sarah Sansom testified Jacob could be “an idiot” while drinking but “not an aggressive, violent man.” She texted Jacob that night that he shouldn’t drive, ride a quad or fight since he’d been drinking (she testified that Jacob liked to play-fight with his family members of him, including Cardinal).
During opening statements to the jury earlier this week, Shawn Gerstel, the defense lawyer for Roger Bilodeau, said that they would hear evidence during the trial that Jacob Sansom’s blood-alcohol limit had been found to be nearly three times the legal limit.
Jacob Sansom and Cardinal had been at Jason Katish’s house not far from where they would die, the intersection of Range Road 484 and Township Road 622, just north of the little village of Glendon.
Katish testified Tuesday that some Bud Light beers were drank by each of the men that night, but that Jacob Sansom, when he eventually parted ways with Katish, “wasn’t to the point that I was scared for his well-being if he drove .” Katish also said Jacob Sansom seemed calm that night at his residence, where they’d spent time while Cardinal and Sansom skinned the moose they’d caught.
When questioned by the defense, Katish said he told police that the two men were acting “rowdy” and appeared ready to “go all night.” Katish had his kids from him in his house and did n’t want the two men around if they were going to be loud and drinking, so they all left to visit his uncle from him, where about six more beers were acquired by the group , he said.
At one point, Beresh repeatedly asked Katish if the two men were drunk.
“They were feeling good,” he replied.
On the first day of the trial, the jury watched a surveillance video captured by a camera on a nearby gas plant of the events that led to Sansom and Cardinal being shot. They had been with Katish just prior to the events recorded on camera.
Crown prosecutors say the video shows how Roger and Anthony Bilodeau intended to kill Sansom and Cardinal, since Roger had called Anthony while chasing Sansom and Cardinal away from his property and told him to bring a gun. The defense is arguing that the Bilodeaus acted in self-defence that night.
In the black-and-white video, a truck carrying Sansom and Cardinal pulls up to a stop sign near a Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. gas plant and then a second truck, carrying Roger Bilodeau and Anthony’s younger brother, pulls up alongside it before driving just in front of it.
It was then about 9:45 p.m.
One of the occupants in the Dodge truck that was driven by Sansom gets out, and walks toward the truck driven by Roger Bilodeau. It appears that Roger Bilodeau then throws the truck into reverse, coming close to hitting the man approaching it. The Crown has said this was Roger Bilodeau trying to hit Sansom, but the defense denies that it was his attempt.
A physical encounter seems to take place and Crown prosecutor Jordan Kerr told the jury that it appears Sansom punches the passenger-side window before Cardinal approaches the driver-side window.
A few minutes later, Anthony Bilodeau shows up in his truck, pulling up just behind the others, which are parked. Sansom begins approaching Anthony Bilodeau and appears to be shot in the chest before collapsing onto the ground. Anthony Bilodeau goes on foot across the road, away from the second man, Cardinal, now holding a weapon, before shooting him as well.
Then Anthony Bilodeau goes around to Sansom’s truck and appears to shoot Cardinal again, causing him to collapse to the ground.
The trial continues Wednesday.
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