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Judge ignores jury recommendations, imposes lesser sentence on convicted murderer

April 13, 2015 - 5:17 PM

KAMLOOPS - Convicted murderer Robert Donald Balbar, 42, will not be eligible for parole for 13 years after he was sentenced in Kamloops Supreme Court today, but it's less time than he got the first time he was tried.

After his successful appeal of his first trial, a jury found the accused guilty for a second time in December 2014. On April 13, Justice Elizabeth Arnold-Bailey handed Balbar the mandatory life sentence, along with his parole eligibility, which given time served, would be in December 2020. 

In her re-trial sentencing decision, Arnold-Bailey said the jury was split on recommending a period of parole ineligibility for Balbar. Three abstained from recommending while two recommended a 15-year period, one recommended 17 years, three suggested 20 years and three suggested 25 years.

Balbar killed his girlfriend Heather Hamill in their North Shore apartment in 2003 by striking her head roughly nine times with a hammer. To hide the body, Balbar stored it in a cooler before throwing it into the Thompson River days later. Balbar evaded police for four years before the RCMP launched a Mr. Big sting that convinced Balbar to confess to the murder and actively participate in fictional crimes to convince undercover officers he was worthy of joining a fake gang. He was arrested in 2007.

Crown prosecutor Iain Currie called for a 15-year parole ineligibility sentence for Balbar because of his position of trust over Hamill.

“Ms. Hamill was a drug addict and a prostitute and was vulnerable for that reason. She was a person beloved by many. An aboriginal woman who society let down. (She) was specifically vulnerable to Mr. Balbar, her partner,” he said. Among Hamill’s four supporters present in court were her daughter and best friend.

Arnold-Bailey accepted Currie’s evidence and noted other aggravating circumstances to be the violent nature of the crime by “essentially smashing in” the victim’s head and the indignities Balbar committed when it came to disposing the body, specifically removing her shirt to make her death appear as though a john killed her. She also mentioned the degrading comments he made about Hamill in talks with the undercover officers.

The justice also accepted mitigating factors presented by Balbar’s lawyer Jim Blazina, who said his client is learning disabled and mentally low-functioning after he sustained a brain injury. Blazina called for a 12- to 15-year parole ineligibility. Arnold-Bailey said Balbar lived an “underprivileged and difficult life” and did not have a criminal record for violent offences. She said during trial he expressed remorse for Hamill’s death, was capable of empathy by virtue of his affection for his son and there was no evidence to suggest that he would be a danger if released back into the community.

Arnold-Bailey said she made several considerations on sentencing, including the jury’s suggestions on parole eligibility and noted three jurors abstained from recommending a sentence.

She ordered Balbar to submit a DNA sample into the national registry and imposed a lifetime firearms prohibition.

To read past stories on the trial, ciick here

To contact the reporter for this story, email Glynn Brothen at or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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