Peter Kaminski didn’t live life like most people.
For most of his 57 years, Kaminski lived alone in a cabin on Lessard Lake, a 100 km drive northwest of Edmonton. He had no running water, lived off the grid and had no road to his home. The small income he earned came from odd jobs in nearby communities, while his spare time was spent playing the guitar and taking care of his pet cat.
Then one day a young man came to the hut and killed Kaminski with an axe.
On Wednesday, 24-year-old Aurion Mustus was sentenced to seven years in prison for the crime. With credit for preventive custody, he has 18 months to serve.
The court heard how Mustus visited Kaminski’s cabin in June 2018 to buy the older man’s surplus opioid prescription pills. There was an argument and five days later Kaminski was found dead.
“No one, no one deserves to be made like this,” Kaminski’s sister Jean Tront told the court in a victim impact statement. “I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive the young man.”
‘I’d rather be alone’
Peter Kaminski had a rough start in life and preferred to keep his own company, 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 age 16. He preferred working outside of school and started on his own at age 18.
“He really didn’t care about other people’s opinions,” Patricia Kaminski wrote. “He preferred to be alone.”
About 30 years ago, Peter bought land in a remote part of Lessard Lake, where he lived the rest of his life. It had few amenities, with the exception of a solar panel used to power a refrigerator and a TV. Shortly before his death, however, he had applied for income assistance and was considering moving to more modern accommodation.
“His life was starting to get better,” Tront told the court.
Mustus was 20 years old at the time of the murder. He hails from Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation and lived on the reservation on the shores of Lac Ste. A-N-A. According to a report by Gladue, several members of the immediate family were forced to attend residential schools, while a grandmother was taken from her home in the 1960s Scoop. In 2015, his aunt Misty Faith Potts disappeared. At the time of his arrest, Mustus regularly used methamphetamine, but later stopped after starting a Suboxone prescription. He was later diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
According to an agreed statement of facts, Mustus visited Kaminski’s cabin on June 11, 2018 to buy pills. The two sat down at the kitchen table, at which point Kaminski “made some comments that offended (Mustus)”. The young man became “furious”, grabbed an ax from the side of the table and hit Kaminski in the head five times before taking the pills and walking out.
When several of Kaminski’s friends crossed the lake for a visit five days later, they found his body still sitting on the kitchen table.
During interviews with police, Mustus initially denied involvement. Eventually, investigators obtained cell tower data showing Mustus’ phone near Kaminski’s house 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 felony of manslaughter.
Shorter sentence allows parole: judge
At the start of Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, Mustus bowed his head in the prisoner’s cell and heard a prison guard from his community say a prayer in the Stoney language. Mustus’s father, mother and grandmother were in the gallery, along with several of Kaminski’s siblings.
After arguments from both lawyers, Judge Peter Michalyshyn of the Queen’s Court ruled to uphold the recommendation of seven years in prison. With five-and-a-half years credit for time at the remand center – 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 decided on a seven-year sentence, rather than the 10 years requested by the Crown, because it allowed him to impose a three-year probation period to ensure Mustus receives treatment for his FASD and addiction issues.
In an email, Kaminski’s younger sister said the family was frustrated with how long it took to complete the case.