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A man sentenced for having killed a reclusive resident of Lac Lessard with an ax

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Peter Kaminski did not live like most people.

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

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

On Wednesday, Aurion Mustus, 24, was sentenced to seven years in prison for the crime. With credit for remand, he has 18 months left to serve.

The court heard how Mustus went to Kaminski’s cabin in June 2018 to buy pills on the older man’s excess opioid prescription. An argument broke out and five days later Kaminski was found dead.

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

“I preferred to be alone”

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

The second youngest of 14 siblings, Peter was raised without a mother and lost his father at 16. He preferred to work outside rather than at school and started his own business at 18.

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

About 30 years ago, Peter purchased land on a remote section of Lac Lessard, where he lived for the rest of his life. It had few amenities except for a solar panel to power a refrigerator and a television. However, just before his death, he had applied for income assistance and was considering moving to more modern accommodation.

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

A man sentenced for having killed a reclusive resident of Lac Lessard with an ax
Aurion Mustus admitted last year to the 2018 murder of Peter Kaminski, at Kaminski’s remote cabin on Lake Lessard. Postmedia, file

Mustus was 20 at the time of the murder. He comes from the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation and lived on the reservation by Lac Ste. Anna. According to a Gladue report, several immediate family members were forced to attend residential schools, while a grandmother was abducted from her home during the Sixties Scoop. In 2015, her aunt, Misty Faith Potts, has disappeared. At the time of his arrest, Mustus was a regular crystal meth user, but later quit after starting a prescription for Suboxone. He was later diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

According to an agreed statement of facts, Mustus went to Kaminski’s cabin on June 11, 2018 to buy pills. The two sat down at the kitchen table, at which point Kaminski “made comments that offended (Mustus)”. The young man became “enraged”, grabbed an ax from the side of the table and hit Kaminski in the head five times before grabbing the pills and walking away.

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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 sitting at the kitchen table.

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

Shorter sentence allows probation: judge

At the start of Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, Mustus ducked his head into the prison box and listened to a corrections officer from his community recite a prayer in the Stoney language. Mustus’ father, mother, and grandmother were in the gallery, along with several of Kaminski’s siblings.

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

Michalyshyn said he opted for a seven-year sentence, rather than the 10 years requested by the Crown, as it allowed him to impose a three-year probation period to ensure Mustus received treatment for his FASD and his substance abuse issues.

In an email, Kaminski’s younger sister said the family was frustrated with how long it took to close the deal.

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