September 20th, 2019

Final arguments made in attempted murder trial

By Shurtz, Delon on June 12, 2019.

Delon Shurtz

Lethbridge Herald

Just over a year ago, John Robert Sheppard walked into his girlfriend’s backyard with a loaded, semi-automatic rifle, and as she fled into her home, Sheppard fired four shots through the patio doors, narrowly missing her and three others inside.

That is attempted murder, Crown prosecutor Clayton Giles said Tuesday during his closing arguments at the conclusion of Sheppard’s four-day trial in Lethbridge provincial court.

“In short, he shot at her while she was retreating,” Giles told the judge.

Sheppard’s lawyer Andre Ouellette, however, said the Crown is only speculating when he suggests Sheppard intended to kill Erika Grintals, and the Crown cannot prove the state of the accused’s mind or his intentions during the evening of April 15, 2018.

Grintals testified during the trial that Sheppard came to her home and the two argued in the backyard. She became alarmed when Sheppard told her he had a gun and 9,000 rounds of ammunition.

When he left the yard, presumably to get the gun, she ran into house and screamed for her son, his girlfriend and another male friend, to lock the doors and turn off the lights. Then she went back outside to talk to Sheppard who had returned to the yard carrying a long bag, which, she assumed, held a gun.

Sheppard dropped the bag in the middle of the yard and walked toward Grintals as she approached him from the walkout basement. After a brief exchange of words Sheppard pushed her to the ground, but she got back up as Sheppard walked back toward the bag. Grintals ran into the house, locked the patio doors and yelled at her son and his friends to run upstairs. As they rushed up the stairs – her son’s friend dropped to the floor on the other side of the room – Grintals heard four gunshots.

Grintals testified she never saw a gun, but she and her son and his girlfriend fled from the house and ran down the street banging on doors for help. They finally ran into a yard and crouched beside an air conditioner to wait for police to arrive. The friend who remained in the house waited for Sheppard to leave, then several minutes later ran from the house as police were arriving.

Sheppard is charged with 12 criminal offences, including attempted murder, assault with a weapon, discharging a firearm, careless use/storage of a firearm, pointing a firearm, unauthorized possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon, resisting a peace officer, and assault.

Ouellette told court none of the bullets struck the staircase up which the victims fled, and the judge can’t be certain beyond a reasonable doubt Sheppard tried to kill anyone. It’s just as plausible, Ouellette suggested, that Sheppard only intended to wound Grintals, scare her, or only shoot up the house. And the accused never actually threatened to kill the woman.

Giles pointed out, however, the bullets fired from the gun seconds after Grintals ran into the house only narrowly missed the stairs and the people frantically fleeing in the dark from the basement to the main floor.

“What was Mr. Sheppard’s intent in shooting in that fashion?” Giles said.

Ouellette conceded the Crown proved most of the charges against his client, but not attempted murder.

“The Crown must prove the specific intent to kill,” he said.

Although the Crown and defence had hoped for a verdict Tuesday, Judge Gregory Maxwell said he prefers not to rush his decision and needs time to review the evidence. He adjourned the matter to June 28 when a sentencing date will likely be scheduled.

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