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Peter Kaminski did not live life like most people.

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For most of his 57 years, Kaminski lived alone in a cabin on Lessard Lake, a 100 km drive northwest of Edmonton. He had no running water, lived off the electricity grid and had no road to his home from him. The small income he earned came from odd jobs in nearby communities, while his spare time was spent playing guitar and caring for his pet cat.

Then one day, a young man came to the cabin and killed Kaminski with an axe.

On Wednesday, 24-year-old Aurion Mustus was sentenced to seven years in jail for the crime. With credit for pretrial custody, he has 18 months left to serve.

Court heard how Mustus visited Kaminski’s cabin in June 2018 to buy pills from the older man’s surplus opioid prescription. An argument erupted, and five days later, Kaminski was found dead.

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“Nobody, nobody deserves to be done in like that,” Kaminski’s sister Jean Tront told court in a victim impact statement. “I don’t know if I will ever forgive the young man.”

‘Preferred to be left alone’

Peter Kaminski had a tough start to life and preferred to keep his own company, sister Patricia Kaminski told court in a victim impact statement.

The second youngest of 14 siblings, Peter was raised without a mother and lost his father at 16 years old. He preferred working outside over school, and set out on his own at age 18.

“He didn’t really care about other (people’s) opinions,” Patricia Kaminski wrote. “I preferred to be left alone.”

Around 30 years ago, Peter bought land on a remote section of Lessard Lake, where he lived the rest of his life. He had few amenities, with the exception of a solar panel used to power a fridge and a TV. Just before his death, however, he had applied for income assistance and was thinking about moving to more modern accommodations.

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“His life was just starting to get better,” Tront told court.

Aurion Mustus admitted last year to the 2018 killing of Peter Kaminski, at Kaminski's remote cabin on Lessard Lake.
Aurion Mustus admitted last year to the 2018 killing of Peter Kaminski, at Kaminski’s remote cabin on Lessard Lake. post media file

Mustus was 20 at the time of the killing. He comes from Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation and lived on the reserve on the shores of Lac Ste. Anne. According to a Gladue report, several immediate family members were forced to attend residential schools, while a grandmother was taken from her home de ella in the 60s Scoop. In 2015, his aunt of him, Misty Faith Potts, disappeared. Around the time of his arrest, Mustus was regularly using crystal meth, but later stopped after beginning a Suboxone prescription. He was later diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

According to an agreed statement of facts, Mustus visited Kaminski’s cabin on June 11, 2018 to buy pills. The two sat down at the kitchen table, at which point Kaminski “made some comments that offended (Mustus).” The younger man became “enraged,” grabbed an ax from beside the table, and struck Kaminski over the head five times before grabbing the pills and leaving on foot.

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When several of Kaminski’s friends boated across the lake for a visit five days later, they found his body still seated at the kitchen table.

During interviews with police, Mustus initially denied involvement. Eventually, investigators obtained cell tower data showing Mustus’s phone near Kaminski’s home the day of the killing. He was arrested and charged with a second-degree murder on July 24, 2019, and pleaded guilty this January to the lesser offense of manslaughter.

Shorter sentence allows probation: judge

At the start of Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, Mustus bowed his head in the prisoner’s box and listened as a corrections worker from his community said a prayer in the Stoney language. Mustus’s father, mother and grandmother were in the gallery, along with several of Kaminski’s siblings.

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After arguments from both lawyers, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Peter Michalyshyn settled on the defense recommendation of seven years in prison. With five-and-a-half years’ credit for time in the remand center — enhanced due to the COVID-19 pandemic — Mustus will serve the remainder of his sentence in provincial jail rather than federal prison.

Michalyshyn said he settled on a seven-year sentence, rather than the 10 years requested by the Crown, because it allowed him to impose a three-year period of probation to ensure Mustus receives treatment for his FASD and addictions issues.

In an email, Kaminski’s youngest sister said family were frustrated with how long it took to conclude the case.

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