KELOWNA - Justice Geoff Barrow had no doubt Keith Gregory Wiens shot his common-law wife Lynn Kalmring out of anger and planted a knife in her hand to disguise the murder as self-defence.
Barrow sentenced Wiens to life in prison today, requiring him to serve at least 13 years before he is eligible for parole.
“I do not believe his evidence and neither did the jury,” Barrow said.
Wiens testified the victim came at him with knife at the climax of a hostile argument sparked by the fact he did not want to have sex with Kalmring after she won a bet that night. He says he shot her in the early hours of August 16, 2011, fearing for his life.
But all evidence in the trial indicates Kalmring was not a violent woman, Barrow said, including Wiens' own account of their relationship.
The sadness in Kalmring's voice when she made a phone call to her sister the night of the shooting, her peaceful character as described in the testimony of her three ex-husbands and her well-known aversion to weapons make a stark contrast with the enraged behaviour Wiens claimed he was confronted with.
“I find it highly unlikely Ms. Kalmring would attack him,” Barrow said, particularly given that Wiens was an ex-RCMP officer, bigger than her in stature.
Equally inconsistent was the position of the victim's body found at the crime scene, Barrow said. Given the nature of the close-range gunshot that penetrated the left side of Kalmring's face and the pool of blood found at the foot of the bed, Barrow said he just didn't understand how the victim could have landed in the position she did with her left arm outstretched and holding a knife.
Wiens' outright denial that finances were ever an issue in the couple's relationship is “simply unbelievable,” Barrow said.
The hostile language and exclamatory punctuation of a three-page letter Wiens wrote to Kalmring instructing her she had better start paying her way reveals money was indeed a point of tension, as it was on the night of Aug. 15 leading up to the fatal shooting.
This denial “taints his evidence entirely,” Barrow said and agreed with the Crown the shooting was impulsive, born of anger and fuelled by alcohol.
Barrow ruled 13 years is the appropriate amount of time Wiens should serve behind bars before he can apply for parole, and acknowledged it will be more difficult for Wiens to serve that time than most other inmates, given he is an ex-police officer.
In the course of the trial, Barrow dismissed one of Kalmring's family members from the gallery for her uncontrolled sobbing. Today he turned to the family and said he understood their sense of loss and “palpable emotions” caused by the senseless killing.
Outside the Kelowna court house Kalmring's sister Donna Irwin said her family will be attending Wiens' parole hearing 13 years from now.
"To make sure that he never sees the light of day," she said. While the jury recommended Wiens serve 20 years without parole, Irwin said anything above 15 years would have been grounds for an appeal.
"To know the judge believed Shelley's testimony... and all the other witnesses... it means a lot to us, especially for me when I got kicked out of the court room one day when I got a little over-emotional," she said, appreciating that Barrow acknowledged the pain the family has gone through.
"Now we can actually start the grieving process because we've never had that opportunity, we've been fighting, fighting, fighting for justice for two years almost."
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