Warning: This story contains descriptions of violence and coarse language. Reader discretion is advised.
Former Revelstoke resident Brandon Cruickshank pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder in an Alberta courtroom on Monday, March 5.
The charges stem from an Oct. 14, 2010 shooting on a rural property near Bonnyville, Alberta that left two men dead. Jimmy Armillotta, 27, of Revelstoke and Fil Kedzior, 21, who was a resident of nearby Bonnyville, were found dead on the scene after a neighbour reported a man with a gun outside the remote property in the early morning hours.
Brandon Cruickshank was soon arrested and charged with the murders.
Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice A.W. Germain sentenced Brandon Cruickshank to two concurrent life sentences. Cruickshank will not be able to apply for parole for 15 years and also received a lifetime firearms ban.
Cruickshank had been on trial for two counts of first degree murder. Crown Prosecutor for Alberta Justice Randy Brandt told the Times Review that the prosecution and defence had come to an agreement prior to the murder trial, which had been scheduled for March 5–9.
In a joint submission, the prosecution and defence agreed Cruickshank would plead guilty on lesser second-degree murder charges with a minimum life sentence and a range of 15 to 17 years before Cruickshank could apply for parole. Justice Germain opted for the 15-year option.
During the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench appearance in St. Paul, Alberta, a total of eight victim impact statements were read, including from Jimmy Armillotta’s parents James and Brenda, who read them in person in court.
At the Mar. 5 court appearance, crown prosecutor Brandt outlined a statement of facts about the case for the court.
What happened the night of Oct. 13–14, 2010?
At the time of the murder, four young men were living together at a rural residence near Bonnyville, Alberta, a small town about 150 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.
They were Dawson Lindsay (27), Jimmy Armillotta (27), Filip Kedzior (21) and Brandon Cruickshank, (18). The ages are listed at the time of the murders. Except for Kedzior, who was from nearby Bonnyville, all of the men were from Revelstoke and maintained ties here.
The property and residence was owned by Dawson Lindsay’s parents Calvin and Holly Kermack.
The four were involved in operating a marijuana grow operation at the property and had been there for most of the summer. The grow-op was located outside, several hundred metres from the house on the residence. Prosecutor Randy Brandt told the court that Dawson Lindsay was the primary operator of the grow operation and the other three were helping him. Brandt described the operation as rather amateurish, noting they were attempting to grow marijuana outdoors in a cold climate in northern Alberta without the assistance of sophisticated hydroponic equipment.
One of Brandon Cruickshank’s jobs at the grow operation was guarding the outdoor field. For this job he was given a 12-gauge shotgun.
Cruickshank had another connection to Dawson Lindsay, other than assisting him with the grow operation. Lindsay was in a relationship with Cruickshank’s sister Dezarae Basset, and the couple had a child together.
Brandt told the court that on the evening of Oct. 13, 2010, Lindsay had a dispute with Bassett and came to the conclusion that their relationship was over.
Prosecutor Brandt said Lindsay’s animosity over the situation extended to Bassett’s brother Brandon Cruickshank. Lindsay told Cruickshank that he had to leave the grow-op, saying Kedzior would give him a ride back to Revelstoke the next day.
This angered Cruickshank, who believed that Lindsay was treating both his sister Bassett and himself unfairly, Brandt told the St. Paul courtroom.
The grow operation Brandon Cruickshank was guarding was located several hundred metres out back of the house. Just before midnight on Oct. 13, Cruickshank took the shotgun and five shells he’d been provided and headed back towards the house.
Brandt said Cruickshank’s primary intention wasn’t to harm Armillotta or Kedzior, but he soon concluded he didn’t have any other option if he wanted to get to Lindsay.
From outside the home, Cruickshank could hear Dawson Lindsay arguing with his sister on the telephone. He opened the door and burst into the home.
Jimmy Armillotta and Fil Kedzior were seated in the living room when Cruickshank entered from behind them. Kedzior was sitting in a chair and Armillotta was laying sideways on a sofa. They were watching TV.
In court, Brandt referred to a transcript of an RCMP interview of Cruickshank after the murders:
Officer: Do you remember what they were watching?
Cruickshank: No, I didn’t look.
Officer: Did they say anything to you?
Cruickshank: No. I came in there and I was quick about it ‘cause I didn’t want to think about it. ‘Cause every time I thought about it, I always fuckin’ cried but, thought about I have to kill Fil or Jimmy y’know? ‘Cause they’re so nice to me compared to Dawson but there’s nothin’ I can do about it. They’re three of them and one of me and I’m a small guy and they’re on steroids. Like, I couldn’t handle them hand to hand. And five bullets was all I had, on my life. No way muscles could handle those guys. So, so yeah. I took them out as quick as I could and there was nothing said. An’ you know like it was just weird. Like it was all quick an’, and I looked for Dawson an’ he was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t makin’ any noise. Like, he was hidin’. So I got scared an’ I knew he had a pistol and lots of ammo. So, I was like fuck.
Brandt told the court that Cruickshank shot Armillotta once from behind from a distance of about five feet, hitting him in the back of the head and killing him instantly. Cruickshank shot Kedzior twice in the back of the head from about ten feet away, also killing him instantly. Police photos from the scene show the two deceased young men hadn’t moved from where they were sitting when Cruickshank burst into the home.
Brandt told the court that Dawson Lindsay was in a room upstairs and didn’t immediately notice the gunshots and remained on the phone with Dezarae. He came downstairs minutes later and found the two dead. He feared for his life and fled the scene.
In the meantime, Cruickshank had fled to a neighbour’s home, apparently afraid that Dawson Lindsay would come after him. He told the neighbour he needed help and then surrendered the shotgun to him.
Police arrived at the neighbour’s home sometime later and took Cruickshank into custody. Later, Cruickshank provided a statement to police confirming the murder of Jimmy Armillotta and Phil Kedzior.
Crown prosecutor satisfied with sentence
The defence didn’t request for a psychological assessment of Brandon Cruickshank.
When contacted by the Times Review, Brandon Cruickshank’s defence lawyer Laura K. Stevens, Q.C. said the case was a tragedy. “This was one of the saddest cases of my career,” she wrote in an email. “I have no other comment thank you.”
Crown prosecutor Brandt said the Crown didn’t make any deals or arrangements with any witnesses who appeared at an earlier pre-trial hearing.
Brandt said he was satisfied with the outcome of the proceedings. “I think what happened here was in the public interest,” Brandt said. “The Crown’s office is very satisfied with how it turned out.”
Cruickshank’s sentences run concurrently, meaning he will be able to apply for parole after 15 years, but it’s not common for parole applications to be granted the first time, and applicants must prove they’ve reformed. “In fact, it’s quite rare for a person to get parole on a first application,” Brandt said. “He would be able to apply. He’d have to show that he had bettered himself or that he was no longer a threat to society and it would be incumbent on him to show those things.” The minimum parole application wait a judge can sentence for second degree murder is 10 years, the maximum is 25.
The Revelstoke Times Review will be developing this breaking news story through the week. We are still seeking to contact several parties involved. If you were involved in the trial, please call Aaron Orlando at 250-837-4667.