A Lacombe man is expected to ask a judge who rejected a proposed seven-year prison sentence to let him reverse his manslaughter guilty plea.
Tyler John Campbell, 28, pleaded guilty last November to manslaughter for shooting Ponoka’s Jeffery Kraft, 20, in a supposed dispute over owed money on Dec. 15, 2019.
In a rare move in a case involving a serious crime, Red Deer provincial court Judge Jim Hunter twice rejected the joint submission earlier this year for a seven-year sentence from the Crown prosecutor and defence.
Under the law, Campbell can now apply to withdraw his guilty plea. It will be up to Hunter whether that is accepted or not.
“In my discussions, Mr. Campbell is leaning towards making that application,” defence lawyer Michael Scrase told Judge Jim Glass in Red Deer court on Thursday.
The case returns before Judge Hunter on April 6, when Scrase is expected to ask to be dropped as Campbell’s lawyer given the circumstances.
“(Campbell) is inclined to make the application to strike the guilty plea and I think it’s just more appropriate for another lawyer to make that application,” said Scrase outside the courtroom.
For Kraft’s family, who have attended nearly every court appearance often joined by other supporters, the latest legal twists are emotionally draining.
“Now, here we are stalling yet again, retracting his plea and looking for new counsel,” said Jeffery’s sister, Caitlin Kraft.
Kraft’s mother, Carrie Cocke, also talked about the toll trying to seek justice for her son.
“How are we supposed to get on with our lives when every few weeks we’re back in court? Is there ever going to be justice for our side?
“Our justice system is a joke,” she said outside the courtroom.
Allen Kraft, Jeffery’s father, said he hopes that Judge Hunter refuses any attempt by Campbell to change his plea, which could lead to another trial and many more months of court dates.
“In my opinion, (Campbell) took a life and he deserves to go to jail for life.”
Kraft and a friend met up with Amie Joanne Rogers at Lacombe’s Boston Pizza about 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 15, 2019. They drove to a nearby rural road and when they stopped, Rogers opened the trunk where Campbell was hiding.
Campbell confronted Kraft with a 12-gauge shotgun, which went off, hitting Kraft in the right chest.
Campbell drove Kraft to Lacombe hospital where he dumped him in the parking lot. Kraft later died from his injuries.
Campbell and Rogers, then-21, were initially each charged with second-degree murder, robbery with a firearm and conspiracy to commit an offence.
Last November, to the Kraft family’s anger and frustration, the charges were withdrawn against Rogers and Campbell pleaded guilty to manslaughter.