‘Extreme’ drunkenness led ‘gentle’ Surrey man to kill: Judge

William Engebretsen would never have stabbed his spouse's son had he been sober, Justice Robin Baird says in sentencing him to jail.

A “colossal” intake of alcohol was to blame for an otherwise “gentle, law-abiding” Surrey man fatally stabbing his spouse’s son nearly three years ago, according to a B.C. Supreme Court judge.

William Engebretsen, 56, was sentenced in the summer to four years jail after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the November 2012 death of 33-year-old Jeremy McLellan.

Justice Robin Baird’s oral reasons for sentence from July 8 were posted online this week, detailing what happened the night McLellan died.

According to court documents, it was Grey Cup Sunday – Nov. 25, 2012 – and McLellan had dropped by the home of Engebretsen and his common-law partner of 20 years. McLellan was the son of Engebretsen’s longtime spouse. Engebretsen had known him since he was 10.

McLellan and his mom were watching TV in the apartment when Engebretsen emerged from the bedroom, where he had been drinking most the day and napping. He told the two he wanted to watch the Grey Cup when one of them answered “if you ask nicely, maybe we’ll do it.” Engebretsen went to the kitchen to make a frozen pizza.

Without warning, Engebretsen then went to his bedroom and picked up an “enormous” knife he’d bought at a rummage sale, went back into the living room and stabbed McLellan once in the heart. He died about an hour later.

Justice Baird said he had no insight into what was going through Engebretsen’s head or what motivated him, but that the “mystery is compounded” by numerous letters from the killer’s family, friends and employers saying he is a gentle, peace-loving man with no history of violence.

Baird did, however, refer to an acrimonious relationship with McLellan that sometimes caused a rift between Engebretsen and his spouse. He did not want McLellan around but his mother did.

That ongoing conflict, fuelled by “extreme” drunkenness, caused McLellan’s mom to lose not only her son that night, but her best friend and marriage.

Engebretsen’s blood alcohol level was 292 mg per 100 ml of blood. A person with 80 mg per 100 ml would be considered too impaired to drive in B.C. His lawyer said a significant portion of the population would have died from such extreme alcohol over-consumption.

Engebretsen has not had a drink since the stabbing.

Justice Baird said it never would have occurred to Engebretsen to stab McLellan had he been sober.

“This is the pernicious thing about alcohol,” said Baird. “It can lead to catastrophe when it is abused. It can lead an otherwise gentle, law-abiding person like you to commit unspeakable acts of violence.

“I have to emphasize that what you did was appalling. There is no other way of looking at it.”

With credit for time already spent in custody, Engebretsen has three years, seven months left of his sentence. Baird said he expected he’d be a model prisoner and likely serve two-thirds of that.

 

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