Sarah Sansom didn’t think she had any reason to worry when her husband and his uncle ventured into the woods to go moose hunting.
Jacob Sansom, 39, and Maurice Cardinal, 57, were found shot to death on a rural road in northern Alberta two months ago.
The younger man’s widow still can’t fathom why.
“There’s nothing that these two men could have done to justify dying over,” Sarah Sansom said in an interview from her home in Nobleford in southern Alberta.
“It just makes no sense.”
Sansom said her spouse was born and raised northeast of Edmonton around Bonnyville, and his family has had a trapline in the area for almost a century.
“You could blindfold him and walk him into the middle of the bush … and he would find his way back instantly,” she said.
“I rarely worried about him hunting out there.”
Jake and Sarah Sansom were high school friends who reconnected in their 20s and fell in love. They were to celebrate their 10-year anniversary this summer and renew their vows.
Sansom said her husband was a superhero to their son Daylen, almost 9, and daughters Addison, 11, and Cierra, 13.
The kids wanted him at friends’ birthday parties and at show-and-tell at school. The girls would giggle and call their burly, tattooed dad “princess” whenever he performed a silly song and dance.
Sansom said her husband accomplished anything he set his mind to, even if he didn’t succeed right away.
He was talented at jiu-jitsu and volunteered as a firefighter.
He wrote a young adult sci-fi novel that his wife wants to publish posthumously.
He could sketch anything. Sansom remembers when they were dating, he deftly drew a rose in pen on a pub napkin in minutes.
He was deeply connected to his Metis-Cree heritage and knew how to heal with traditional medicines. An elder had been training him to become a pipe holder.
Sansom said her spouse was frustrated with how much hate and anger there was in the world.
“He wanted to change how people treated each other.”
Jake Sansom and his uncle were always close, she added.
The younger man would have to remember to put his phone on silent at night because Cardinal liked to call at 5 a.m. every day — and keep calling until his nephew woke up.
Cardinal also had a soft-spot for his great-nephew Daylen. He often sent the boy boxes of Twinkies in the mail.
Jake Sansom operated heavy equipment for a company contracted by Suncor Energy.
When he was laid off at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, his wife said he was relieved because being away from his family for two-week shifts was torture.
But finances were tight, so Jake Sansom drove seven hours north to hunt moose with his uncle near Bonnyville, where the family has hunting rights.
They would be able to stock their freezer with meat and share with other relatives. Nothing would be wasted.
His wife said she woke up worried on the morning of March 28 when she hadn’t heard from him.
RCMP have said the occupants of two vehicles got into a fight the night before, then a third vehicle arrived. The two men were found dead outside a parked truck the next morning near Glendon, about 30 kilometres west of Bonnyville.
Anthony Bilodeau, a 31-year-old from Glendon, faces two counts of second-degree murder. A date for his jury trial has not been set.
Sansom said the first she had heard of Bilodeau was when RCMP announced the charges against him.
She doesn’t know whether racism was at play. She can’t imagine her husband or Cardinal would have trespassed, given their familiarity with property owners in the area.
She said police have told her little, but assured her that the victims did nothing wrong.
Sansom said her kids have slept in her bedroom every night since they lost their dad.
“They just don’t feel safe in their home anymore.”
Sansom said she didn’t have it in her to attend a traditional ceremony this weekend on the spot where the two men were killed.
“I’m just not ready to see where he took his last breath.”
When Sansom is feeling less overwhelmed, she said she wants to start a foundation in her husband’s name to teach kids jiu-jitsu and keep them out of trouble.
“I think that would make him proud.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2020
Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press