Prison for Ross in deadly Cornwall shatter explosion

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)

CORNWALL – A Cornwall man, who made a career out of producing and dealing drugs, has been given a six year prison sentence for an explosion and fire which killed another tenant in his apartment building.

Andrew Ross was sentenced by Judge Johanne Lafrance-Cardinal today (Monday) after pleading guilty in December to manslaughter, possession of an explosive substance, possession of the proceeds of crime, arson, recklessly causing damage by fire and explosion, production of shatter and possession for the purpose of trafficking in methamphetamine.

Michael Lalonde, 67, who lived in the Carleton Street apartment building, died after opening a refrigerator door March 26, 2017, which triggered an explosion, “engulfing (him) in flames.”

Ross had been cooking shatter in the apartment for months and had produced a batch the night before the explosion, which had been curing in the freezer, court heard.

“The combustible fumes from the butane had built up inside the freezer-fridge compartment and an ignition source within the residence, possibly a cigarette, had caused the butane fumes to ignite, causing an explosion. The fridge door…was blown clear off the hinges, approximately 10-12 feet away,” Lafrance-Cardinal said.

Ross and the victim’s son had escaped the building and thought Lalonde had gone out a back entrance. “Unfortunately that was not the case.”

“The sentence must denounce this alarming practice that endangers the lives and safety of others and it must deter others. There must be a clear message sent to the community at large of the legal repercussions they will face is they choose to engage in such reckless behaviour,” Lafrance-Cardinal said.

“To do the extraction (of oil from marijuana bud) in a small, non-ventilated apartment in a residential area with other tenants in the same building is reckless. It is one thing to use drugs in the confine of your apartment. It’s something quite different when your drug production endangers the lives of other occupants, the other tenants and everyone living in close proximity to the building.”

The judge also found it “very alarming” there has been 33 shatter-related fire investigations in Canada between 2012 and 2017 – two in Cornwall “in what seems to be shatter production.”

Court heard that Ross, 28, has two daughters, ages 3 and 10, from different mothers and has a girlfriend who has been with him for the past year. He is about three credits short of a high school diploma and is diagnosed and untreated with attention deficit disorder (ADD), ADHD and is bi-polar because he “refuses to take his medication.” Except for drugs taken by needle, he has “tried every type of illicit drug” and is addicted to crystal meth, the judge said.

Lafrance-Cardinal did not accept defence lawyer John Hale’s argument that his client was “naive” to the dangers of producing shatter. “The danger was foreseeable and he knew about it,” she ruled.

The court will give Ross credit of 10 months for pre-trial custody against the six year prison sentence. Based on statutory release, Ross will likely only serve 3-4 years behind bars.

The court still needs to address restitution for the damage to the Carleton Street apartment building, which has been put over to a September court date.

Outside the courtroom, members of the Michael Lalonde’s family took a moment to speak with reporters.

“There wouldn’t be a sentence that would be just, in my opinion,” said Tina Lalonde, the victim’s daughter.

“I think that at a bare minimum he should serve the years that were stolen from him (Michael Lalonde),” said Shiara Tyo, the victim’s granddaughter, as she fought back tears.

The two women were among four people to enter victim impact statements to the court. The judge quoted passages of Tina and Shiara’s statements during her pronouncement.

Around a dozen or so members each for the victim and the accused were in the gallery for today’s sentencing.

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