Convicted killer and gang member sentenced to life for killing his Sask. Penitentiary cellmate

Convicted killer and gang member Tyler Vandewater was sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 16 years for murdering his Saskatchewan Penitentiary cellmate in 2017. 

Sentencing for Vandewater was scheduled for June 5 in Prince Albert Court of Queen’s Bench but went ahead on May 15 instead. 

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Vandewater, 31, was found guilty on March 5 of second-degree murder for stabbing Christopher Van Camp, 37, to death on June 7, 2017. 

Justice Brian Scherman, when finding Vandewater guilty, said he didn’t believe he acted in self-defence, citing the lack of injuries on Vandewater and the more than 60 wounds on Vamp Camp as a reason. 

During the trial that went from Jan. 27 to Feb. 5, defence counsel Brian Pfefferle argued that Vandewater killed Van Camp in self-defence and that he was afraid because Van Camp was paranoid and plotting against Vandewater. 

But Justice Scherman rejected that argument. 

“The evidence is that in all of his time at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary Van Camp was an inmate who did not create problems and displayed no proclivity for violence.”

And he said there was no evidence of any paranoia.

“Based upon the evidence before me, I am sure that Van Camp was the victim of an unexpected attack of such violence and force that Van Camp was incapable of taking any or effective resistance,” said Justice Scherman.

He also said Vandewater’s evidence raised serious concerns whether his evidence “was being governed by fidelity to the oath or affirmation he swore or by the scope of authorization he received from others. The evidence of Vandewater made it clear that as a Terror Squad associate, he was subject to the gang’s authority and he adhered to what he called the gangster code. He testified that 99 per cent of the inmates on Range C were either Terror Squad members or associates.”

An autopsy report revealed that Van Camp had 60 wounds on his body and he died as a result of loss of blood. 

According to Correctional Service Canada, at the time of Van Camp’s death he was serving a five-year, five-month and 12-day sentence since June 2012 for armed robbery. Vandewater was serving four years, 11 months and 11 days for aggravated assault, assault causing bodily harm, two counts of assaulting a peace officer and uttering threats. 

Van Camp’s mother, Lauren Laithwaite of Calgary, is suing CSC alleging that prison staff was negligent. She says under the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act her son shouldn’t have been arrested and returned to the maximum-security unit at Saskatchewan Penitentiary for violating his parole after he overdosed. The Act is aimed at reducing fear of police attending overdose events and encourages people to save a life. The Act provides some legal protection for people seeking emergency help during an overdose. The Act allows for protection of people from charges such as possessing a controlled substance or breach of conditions regarding possession when on parole, conditional sentences or a pre-trial release. 

The Act became law May 4, 2017, three weeks before Van Camp overdosed. 

Crown prosecutor Linh Lê asked the court that Vandewater not be eligible for parole for 16 to 18 years. Defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle argued for 14 years.

The motive for Vandewater’s attack on Van Camp may never be known, said Justice Scherman. 

“The reasons why Van Camp was killed will never be known. Vandewater may have had personal reasons. Perhaps a Terror Squad gang decision was the reason. The gang or prison code ensures that even if someone other than Vandewater knows, that we will never know.
“What I do know from the totality of the evidence is that this was a particularly violent, brutal, one-sided and sustained attack by Vandewater on Van Camp that was not provoked and was not self-defence.”

Vandewater’s lawyer is appealing the conviction on the grounds that the judge erred in his consideration of the self-defence argument. 


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