The Guardian (Charlottetown)
Sentencing for death of Islander
Jason Williams died in a dispute the night of April 2, 2017
A Nova Scotia native has been sentenced to five years in prison in a case in Alberta that began with a dispute over fireworks and ended with two men dead, including one from Prince Edward Island.
Terry Sutton and Jason Williams, who is from P.E.I., were shot and killed on April 2, 2017, in Chipman, Alta., a village of 274 east of Elk Island National Park.
Raymond Nickerson, 40, who is originally from Nova Scotia, was charged with second-degree murder in both mens’ deaths.
In January, a jury acquitted Nickerson of both murder counts after he testified he shot the men in selfdefence. The jury convicted him of the lesser charge of manslaughter for Williams’ death.
Justice Eric Macklin said the violence was the culmination of a “volatile” relationship between the Suttons and the Nickersons, who he called a “rural Alberta version of the Hatfields and McCoys”.
The deadly dispute began after 11 p.m. on Sunday, April 2, 2017.
Williams’ aunt, who read a victim impact statement, said her 40-yearold nephew had finished a shift at the oilfield company where he worked as a supervisor, and planned to fly home to Prince Edward Island to see family later that week. He was celebrating with Sutton — his longtime friend, who was renting him a room.
Hours before, Williams had sent his mother a video of themselves singing Sunglasses At Night.
At some point, someone lit two fireworks, which disturbed their neighbours, the Nickersons.
Macklin said the two families — who both had kids at home — had a contentious relationship, with frequent verbal fights and occasional property damage.
Words were exchanged. Sutton and his wife, Misti, eventually crossed the street and began to argue with Nickerson and his wife, Tina.
At some point, Misti Sutton attacked Tina Nickerson, pulling off her bathrobe as they wrestled on the floor, Macklin said.
Nickerson had by then retrieved a semi-automatic shotgun he used for hunting, removed the trigger lock and loaded three shells. Macklin said Nickerson was “understandably frightened,” and fired two shots at Sutton as he entered the home.
He fired one more shot, which hit Williams in the head.
Nickerson then called 911 and turned himself into police. Both men died at the scene.
'TRYING TO PROTECT HIMSELF'
In Canada, manslaughter with a firearm carries a minimum sentence of four years.
Defence lawyer Akram Attia argued Nickerson deserved the minimum, saying he poses no risk to the community. He argued Nickerson acted in self-defence and that there was evidence that the shot that killed Williams was an accidental discharge or an attempt to scare him away.
Nickerson told the jury he believed Williams was armed. The weapon in question is believed to have been a pellet or airsoft gun, which police never located.
“He was trying to protect himself and his family, and he may have overstepped that,” Attia said.
Crown prosecutor Katrina Stewart Lund said Nickerson deserved six to eight years in prison.
She said the jury found Nickerson did not intend kill Williams but added: “this was an intentional pulling of the trigger in a careless manner”.
Stewart Lund also requested Nickerson be given a lifetime firearms ban (Attia requested the minimum ban of 10 years, which Macklin accepted).
Macklin concluded Nickerson’s moral culpability was at the “lower end” of the manslaughter spectrum, which runs from “near accident” to “near murder”.
In victim impact statements, Williams’ mother, brother and aunt described a loving father of two who stepped up for his family when his own father died unexpectedly two years prior.
Debbie Williams said she will never forgive Nickerson for her son’s death.
“To have your baby taken from you so gruesomely and suddenly is unexplainable,” she said.
Robert Williams said his brother taught him to fish and loved to tinker with motors and anything mechanical.
“This was an act of violence that did not have to take place,” he said.
Carol Durand, meanwhile, spoke directly to her nephew’s killer, who she called a “hothead”. She noted Nickerson is from Nova Scotia, and like Williams, must have understood what it is like to live far from home.
“I’m sure anyone who’s from the East Coast knows what it’s like working in Alberta and having a plane ticket to go back to the ocean,” she said.
Instead, her nephew is dead “over two celebratory fireworks”.
Nickerson apologized to the family in a tearful statement before Macklin passed sentence.
“I am a father and a grandfather and I can’t imagine the pain you must feel — the loss, the anger and the trauma that my actions that night have caused all of you,” Nickerson said.
“I know I took two lives from you, and I know there’s nothing I can ever do or say that will bring them back.”