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‘Benefit of the doubt’: Appeal Court downgrades conviction in moving van death


Alberta’s top court has downgraded the conviction of Calgary man who drove over his wife with a cube van during an argument and left her to die alone on a snow-covered street.

In a decision released Tuesday, The Alberta Court of Appeal substituted Ronald Candaele’s 2021 second-degree murder conviction with a lesser conviction of manslaughter.

Candaele had been handed a life sentence with no chance of parole for 16 years in the February 2020 killing of Melissa Rae Blommaert.

The Appeal Court noted that Candaele would be guilty of manslaughter if he didn’t have the intent for murder.

“However, (the trial judge) did not address whether there was another reasonable inference available on the evidence; namely, whether Mr. Candaele’s level of intent fell short of that required to establish second-degree murder,” Justice Dawn Pentelechuk wrote.

“Not to do so was unreasonable.”

The trial judge had said Bommaert’s death was part of a “long, tragic cycle of domestic violence” and Candaele had a history of terrorizing her.

The court heard Candaele and Blommaert had been arguing when she got out of the vehicle in the Bowness neighbourhood of northwest Calgary.

As Blommaert stormed away, Candaele drove the fully loaded U-Haul cube van into her, ran her over and turned around.

The court heard that Candaele drove past her as she lay dying.

Candaele appealed his conviction.

Pentelechuk said it was reasonable to infer that Candaele deliberately drove toward Blommaert, but said that doesn’t mean he intended to run her down and kill her, or cause bodily harm he knew was likely to cause her death.

“It is equally reasonable to infer from the totality of the evidence that Mr. Candaele’s intention was to bully and intimidate her to act as he wanted her to do,” said Pentelechuk.

“Ms. Blommaert was running in the middle of the snow-covered road. It was objectively foreseeable as she was running, with the U-Haul approaching from behind, she might slip and fall.”

She said if the van was too close or going too fast, a reasonable person may have foreseen the risk of being unable to stop and running over her.

“Mr. Candaele is to be given the reasonable benefit of the doubt that he was reckless in his unlawful act of dangerous driving but did not have the intention for murder.”

The case will be sent back to court for a new sentencing.