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Grandma gets 4 years for manslaughter
A 74-year-old woman accused of killing her husband of 50 years has pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Anne Semenovich was originally charged with first-degree murder and interfering with human remains. Alex Semenovich's remains were found in an incinerator on the family's property by a maintenance worker in April of 2008.
During court proceedings Thursday, defence lawyer Laura Stevens stated: "She accepts her memory of the relevant events is not accurate. Having heard the testimony of Brian Semenovich she accepts his version of the events."
Semenovich also pleaded guilty to interfering with human remains.
The Crown consented to Semenovich's guilty plea of manslaughter. The Crown and the defence entered a joint submission to court for a sentence of four years in prison.
Prior to this week's testimony, a week-long fitness trial was held where the jury found Semenovich mentally fit to stand trial. During that proceeding, Semenovich described what she called a horrible marriage filled with physical abuse.
In his ruling Court of Queen's Bench Justice Eric Macklin referred to evidence that showed Semenovich had endured a life of abuse with her husband.
"She lived with a man, as the evidence described, was constantly abusive to her," he said. "Mrs. Semenovich, I wish you good luck. I hope you serve your remaining years in improved circumstances."
She will serve time in a penitentiary where lawyers on both sides hope she will get the mental and physical help she needs.
"Her situation would have been unendurable for most people for many years and the tragic consequences that flowed from that cannot be changed," said Stevens.
The 74-year-old's grandson Brian Semenovich and his mother Laurie Semenovich have been charged with accessory after the fact to murder, and interference with human remains.
The last couple of days, the court had heard some shocking testimony from the woman's grandson.
Brian told the court he had woke up to a cool breeze coming from his grandfather's room on the morning of April 15th, 2008. He said when he got up and went to his grandmother's room she was sitting in her rocking chair.
"She stopped rocking and looked at me and she said 'I did it.' I said 'you did what?' 'I shot grandpa.'"
"My reply was 'you're kidding me' and she said 'no, I shot him.'"
Brian said at that point he opened the chamber to find that the shotgun shell had been discharged.
"She said 'I shot him through the window.'"
The 25-year-old said he then saw the body on a bed with a gunshot wound to the head. It was at that point he contemplated two options.
"Phoning the RCMP and having them come out," he said. "The other option was to keep quiet."
He chose to only tell his mother of what happened. A day later he told court his mother called him several times and eventually drove to his workplace in Nisku with his grandmother.
Together, Brian said the two convinced him to return to the property and help move the man's body.
"He was at the front doors lying on a blanket with a bag over his head...we dragged him on a blanket down the driveway to the incinerator."
Brian said he never discussed the crime with his grandmother and only discussed it a few times with his mother. He said he told his mother he thought they were going to be caught and should confess to police, but they never did.
Brian testified a day earlier that his grandfather once chased his grandmother with a kitchen knife.
"He had a large kitchen knife in his hand...he was chasing her around the kitchen stove with this knife and his intentions were to kill her," the man testified.
He told the court that his grandfather had become increasingly hostile towards the family as he aged.
"He would snap immediately. He would let things build up before he would blow up."
Brian said in January of 2008, he gave his grandmother a loaded shotgun.
"My grandfather's hostility and violence was becoming more of an issue... I told her to use it as defence if he came at her when I wasn't around."
The 25-year-old said he was so concerned with the level of violence that he went to the RCMP on two separate occasions. Police told him it was a domestic issue and that he would need a statement from those involved. He explained that his grandmother was too afraid to complain to police and a report was never filed.
Brian also testified that his grandfather's mental health had deteriorated and he would often witness the 77-year-old talking to himself.
The court also heard from a maintenance worker who testified about the day he and his co-worker discovered the remains of Alex Semenovich in an incinerator.
Vic Small with CJS Combustion Products told the court he had a conversation with the accused during an initial consultation in the fall of 2007 when Semenovich said she needed the incinerator fixed after buying it at a scrap yard.
"She shows me the unit itself and I say 'what would you want an incinerator like this on an acreage for?' It doesn't make sense. And she said 'I'd like to burn my husband in there.'"
Then months later, Small said he had been called to the woman's property to inspect why the incinerator wasn't working.
He went on to tell the court that when he and his co-worker Derek Lester opened the door of the incinerator, they thought there was a pig stuffed inside.
"He [Derek] said 'oh my God those aren't pigs' feet they're human,'" said Small.
"I just said 'drop everything and let's get out of here'...I was thinking we could be next. Just dropped everything and got out of there."
"We phoned the RCMP in Stony Plain right away," he added.
In an opening address Monday morning, Crown prosecutor Karen Thorsrud alleged that Anne went outside and, "Climbed on a ledge, opened the window, pointed the shotgun at her sleeping husband, pulled the trigger and killed him."
"This was a planned and deliberate murder," added the Crown.
The Crown also said Semenovich dragged her husband's body to the incinerator with the help of her daughter and grandson.
Semenovich had previously denied shooting her husband and claimed she didn't know how he died.
The judge did give Semenovich a 2-for-1 credit for the three weeks she served in the Edmonton Remand Centre.
With files from Scott Roberts