Man convicted of second-degree murder will be eligible for parole in 12 years

A 24-year-old man convicted of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of David Sanderson will be eligible for parole in 2028.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar described Billy Joe Linklater’s 2016 assault on Sanderson — where Linklater stabbed and slashed the victim 33 times, puncturing his lung and brain — as “brutal.”

But the judge said there were other factors that needed to be considered, specifically Linklater’s young age, a lack of evidence suggesting premeditation, and the difficult circumstances that shaped Linklater’s formative years.

“It appears that Mr. Linklater’s unfortunate family environment has helped to shape what he has become,” Dewar said Monday during his decision on Linklater’s parole eligibility.

Difficult upbringing, criminal record affected parole decision

After Linklater was found guilty by a jury in December, Dewar handed down a life sentence with eligibility for parole after 12 years — closer to the defence’s suggestion of 10 years than the Crown’s recommendation of 20 years.

Dewar said details of Linklater’s upbringing — which included apprehension by child and family services, long-term substance abuse issues, a Grade 11 education level, significant trauma and ADHD — helped lower his period of parole ineligibility to 12 years from a maximum of 25.

“Mr. Linklater had grown up in an environment marked by domestic violence, substance abuse and neglect,” Dewar said.

“[These factors] often drive the period of ineligibility down to reflect the unhappy fact that avoiding criminal activity is harder for such an offender than others.”

Linklater’s criminal record — which included a home invasion where knives were used to threaten occupants, and a robbery he committed while out on interim release — was serious enough to impact his parole eligibility, the judge said.

“His failure to abide by release conditions is disturbing,” Dewar said.

“This murder also occurred in Mr. Sanderson’s own home: a place where a person is supposed to be protected from and feel safe against the kind of attack that occurred here.”

Linklater was on probation when he killed Sanderson.

Details of reason behind killing ‘sparse’: judge

Linklater and his girlfriend, Lorie Knott, were charged with second-degree murder after Sanderson, 50, was found dead in his Aberdeen Avenue home on June 22, 2016.

After a night of drinking with Sanderson, the pair went back to the victim’s home. Later that night, there was a confrontation, during which Linklater killed Sanderson.

Knott was found not guilty by the jury.

But the trial produced no explanation for why the confrontation happened — aside from a suggestion that Sanderson talked to Linklater about paying Knott for sex.

“That is the only evidence which might to point to some reason why a confrontation occurred. But it by no means offers an explanation for the vicious assault,” Dewar said.

The judge added that if this was the only explanation for the fight, it raises a serious concern that Linklater was unable to control his emotions.

This lack of explanation was also reflected in the three victim impact statements submitted, Dewar said.

“What rang loud and clear from the statements that were read is that the losses sustained by [the victim’s friends and family] were amplified by the suddenness of David Sanderson’s largely unexplained death,” he said.

Jury divided on parole recommendations

The jury’s recommendations offered no consensus on an appropriate parole eligibility period, Dewar said.

Of the 12 jurors, five offered no recommendations. The remaining seven recommended various sentences, with between 12 and 25 years of parole ineligibility.

Dewar said that meant at least seven jurors were “sufficiently appalled” by the circumstances of the murder to consider the minimum 10-year ineligibility period inadequate.

He also noted that because the jury only considered information regarding the circumstances of the offence, the weight its recommendations should be given is minimal.

“I cannot conclude that Mr. Linklater is a lost cause,” Dewar said.

Dewar said Linklater will have the responsibility between now and when he is eligible for parole to demonstrate he has changed for the better.

The judge also encouraged Linklater to access psychological assistance and cultural programming that might help him develop better coping strategies to control his emotions.

Linklater will be eligible for parole in 12 years, which is calculated from the day of his arrest on June 25, 2016. He will be eligible for parole on June 25, 2028.