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Forty years before parole bid for guard who killed co-workers

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Joseph Rejano (right), brother of murder victim Eddie Rejano, speaks to reporters after the sentencing of Travis Baumgartner in Edmonton on Wednesday.

JASON FRANSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Joseph Rejano (right), brother of murder victim Eddie Rejano, speaks to reporters after the sentencing of Travis Baumgartner in Edmonton on Wednesday.

EDMONTON -- An armoured-car guard who gunned down four crewmates on the job has been handed the toughest sentence in Canada since the country's last execution, but it's not enough for some family members of his victims.

An Edmonton judge agreed Wednesday to a plea deal that gives 22-year-old Travis Baumgartner a life sentence with no chance of parole for 40 years.

It's a first under a new federal law allowing consecutive parole ineligibilty periods in mass-murder cases. Before, offenders faced a maximum 25 years before getting a crack at more freedom.

"Call it justice -- sure. My way of justice is back in the old days -- hang him," Joseph Rejano, brother of murdered guard Eddie Rejano, 39, told reporters outside court while running his hand through his fatherless nephew's hair.

"That's justice for what he did."

Victor Shegelski, whose new bride Michelle Shegelski, 26, was the most senior guard on the crew, said he understands 40 years was the best the courts could do in the case, considering the death penalty was repealed back in 1962.

"I think he should just be taken out behind the shed and put down, personally," Shegelski said before leaving the courthouse. "My wife is still dead."

Janet Stosky, aunt of murdered guard Brian Ilesic, 35, said her family believes the Crown prosecutor's office worked hard on the case and the 40-year wait for a parole opportunity honours the victims.

"I am not sure, when you are going through this level of pain, if you can ever feel satisfied with the justice that is available," she said.

The lone survivor from the crew, Matthew Schuman, now 26, is still recovering from a brain injury and did not attend court for fear of being retraumatized.

Justice John Rooke had the option of imposing a parole wait of up to 75 years but told a packed courtroom experienced Crown and defence lawyers had done their homework on the case. He ruled it would be contrary to the public interest to change the deal.

Rooke said he had to make sure Baumgartner never hurts anyone again, but also give him some hope for freedom to ensure good behaviour behind bars.

Baumgartner sat slumped in the prisoner's box with his arms crossing his chest. The judge described him as a greedy coward and cold-blooded killer who basically executed the co-workers he had sworn to protect.

"Why didn't he just take the money and run?" the judge asked. "What was he possibly thinking?

"It's difficult to describe the revulsion of society and this court and the public."

Baumgartner was a new employee with security company G4S and was struggling with debt. He owed friends money and argued with his mother about paying her rent hours before the shooting on June 15, 2012.

He had come up with a plan to rob his employer during a routine night shift reloading ATMs across the city. Somewhere along the line, the scheme turned deadly.

He shot three of his fellow guards in their heads after they turned their backs on him to fill a cash machine at the University of Alberta. He then rushed out to their parked armoured truck, reloading his gun along the way, and ambushed the fourth crew member waiting there.

He drove off with about $400,000 in cash, left some on the kitchen table for his mom and made a run in his pickup truck to the U.S. border. Officials caught their prime suspect the next day in British Columbia.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 12, 2013 A13

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Updated on Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 9:43 AM CDT: Fixes headline.

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