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‘I have nothing because of you’: Family gives impact statements at sentencing of Tyler John Campbell

Campbell was found guilty of manslaughter in the killing of Ponoka’s Jeffery Kraft

A Crown prosecutor and defence lawyer argued on Tuesday that the seven-year sentence the judge previously rejected for a man who shot and killed Jeffery Kraft in 2019 remains the right punishment.

Tyler John Campbell, 29, pleaded guilty exactly one year ago Tuesday, to manslaughter for shooting Ponoka’s Kraft, 20, in a dispute over money on Dec. 15, 2019.

Kraft, with a man and woman he knew, was driven to a rural road near Lacombe on the night he was killed. When they arrived, the woman opened the trunk of the vehicle they had been travelling in and Campbell got out and confronted Kraft with a 12-gauge shotgun. The gun went off accidentally and Kraft was fatally hit in the chest at close range.

The Crown prosecutor and defence lawyer recommended a seven-year sentence in a joint submission last February.

However, Red Deer provincial court Judge Jim Hunter twice rejected the proposed sentence.

Campbell sought to withdraw his guilty plea but that was rejected by a different judge last month and the case returned to court for sentencing before Hunter.

Red Deer Chief Crown prosecutor Dominique Mathurin said while she understands that for Kraft’s family no sentence is high enough seven years remains an appropriate penalty under Canadian law.

Defence lawyer Rod Clark said that while Campbell’s “half-baked plan” to try to get money from Kraft was criminal the gun went off accidentally and he did not intend to shoot Kraft.

“My client is not a monster. What he did may have had a monstrous effect on people, but he is not a monster.”

Clark said the Crown prosecutor and defence lawyer who made the original joint submission were very experienced.

“In my respectful submission, they got it right. A seven-year sentence is perfectly appropriate.”

Hunter said on Tuesday he did not want to make a sentencing decision “off the cuff.” A date for his decision will be set on Friday.

Before the lawyers made their sentencing submissions, victim impact statements of friends and family of Kraft’s were read in court.

Kraft’s mother, Carrie Cocke, said she spends most days on the brink of tears.

“I am not the same person now that he’s gone,” she said, as Campbell watched by a closed-circuit video link with the Red Deer Remand Centre.

“I no longer care if I live or die. I have nothing because of you,” she told Campbell. “I will never forgive you for what you have done.”

Kraft’s father, Allen, said while Campbell still gets to enjoy time with family and friends his victim’s family is trying to pick up the pieces of the lives they had.

“I would like to know how you could ever sleep at night knowing you murdered a young man for no reason.”

Kraft’s sister, Caitlin Kraft, said the psychological damage to her children, who lost a much-loved uncle, will last far longer than any prison sentence he gets.

A dress that her brother bought his niece for Christmas was instead worn to his funeral. “Christmas for me will now always be filled with sadness and heartache.

“You took my only sibling from me, my best friend.”

Campbell said Tuesday he knows his words will mean little to the family but he is sorry for what happened.

“It’s a terrible tragedy what happened and I’ll live with it for the rest of my life.”

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Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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