Prosecutors seek 7 years in Cornwall ‘shatter’ death

In this March 2017 file photo, construction workers cut plywood to cover the windows of this Carleton Street home in Cornwall, Ont. The explosion and fire were caused by the production of shatter. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

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CORNWALL – Provincial and federal prosecutors are seeking a combined sentence of 7 years in prison for a drug production explosion last year that killed a man on Carleton Street.

A Cornwall court heard sentencing submissions on Feb. 13, 2018 for 28-year-old Andrew Ross.

Ross had been facing 18 charges, including manslaughter, arson and drug trafficking. He has pleaded guilty to six charges – four provincial and two federal. The provincial charges are manslaughter, possession of a firearm while prohibited, possession of proceeds of crime and arson. The federal charges are drug production and possession for the purpose of trafficking.

Michel Lalonde, 67, died in the blast and fire in a two-storey duplex near Easton Avenue on March 26, 2017.

Ross’ lawyer, John Hale, said his client is “extremely remorseful for the loss and what he did.”

During the reading of a victim impact statement, Ross – a 28-year-old man with long, dirty blonde hair – sobbed and rocked in the prisoner’s box, his face buried in his hands. Several of his family members and relatives of the victim were in the courtroom.

Hale said the production of “shatter” – cooking the oil out of marijuana to create a high THC concentrate – was “still in the realm of the unknown” when it came to foreseeable risk.

“To punish Andrew Ross as if he knew (the foreseeable danger)…would be wrong in law,” Hale said, noting that he and visitors had smoked thousands of cigarettes inside the apartment in the months before the deadly explosion.

The defence is seeking 4-5 years, less time served of approximately 10 months.

But provincial Crown Michael Purcell said it was an “entirely foreseeable tragedy” and was a crime “motivated by profit.” Purcell said Ross’ actions showed a “high degree of recklessness and was foreseeable.”

Purcell also zeroed in on previous testimony that Ross was aware of the danger when speaking with other people about the shatter production.

The provincial Crown is seeking a combined sentence on all charges of 6.5 years, plus the federal Crown is seeking an additional six months consecutive on the drug trafficking charge, for a total of seven years.

Court heard 31 highly flammable butane canisters – some full, some empty – used for producing “shatter”, tubes with marijuana and 703 methamphetamine pills were among the drug items found inside the apartment.

“The offender is currently unemployed. He (Ross) advised that his only legitimate job lasted for one year. The rest of time he supported himself by dealing drugs. He goes on to indicate…this is indeed troubling…he enjoyed the money and was good at it,” federal Crown Ronald Turgeon said, reciting portions of a pre-sentence report.

While the provincial Crown addressed the recklessness, Turgeon said his sentence submission zeroed in on the elaborate planning of the drug operation.

Judge Johanne Lafrance-Cardinal will deliver her decision in two weeks.