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"Callous and cowardly:" Alberta woman who shot husband sentenced to 18 years

EDMONTON — An Alberta woman who admitted to shooting her husband and dumping his body in a slough has been sentenced to 18 years in prison.

EDMONTON — An Alberta woman who admitted to shooting her husband and dumping his body in a slough has been sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Helen Naslund, 56, pleaded guilty in March to manslaughter in the September 2011 shooting of 49-year-old Miles Naslund on a farm near Holden, Alta.

The couple's son, Neil Naslund, 28, pleaded guilty to offering an indignity to human remains. He was sentenced in Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench Friday to three years in prison.

They were both initially charged with first-degree murder and offering an indignity to human remains.

"Most people who are charged with criminal offences … aren't evil people, they're not bad people. They're people who make mistakes," Justice Sterling Sanderman said as he accepted the joint sentencing recommendations from the Crown prosecutor and defence lawyers. 

"They then have to pay for the manner in which they overreacted."

An agreed statement of facts submitted in March says there was a domineering pattern of abuse in the marriage on the part of Miles Naslund toward his wife.

Helen Naslund feared for her safety, but didn't want to leave out of concern for her children and because of the depression she suffered, the facts say. Both husband and wife had problems with alcohol, court heard.  

The agreed facts say Helen Naslund shot her husband twice in the back of his head with a .22-calibre pistol when he was in bed.

The statement of facts say she and her son put the body in a metal box and used a boat to dump it in a swampy area. They then threw the gun in a dugout and buried the victim's car in a farmer's field.

Court heard the mother and son contacted two other sons in the family to tell them what had happened. They all agreed that they would say Myles Naslund was missing. 

One of the sons later told friends that he had a family secret and explained what really happened to his father, say the statement of facts. 

Police had initially treated Myles Naslund as a missing person, but began a homicide investigation after receiving a tip. Investigators, with the help of a dive team, found his remains on the farm southeast of Edmonton in 2017 — six years after he disappeared.

During Friday's sentencing hearing the judge called it a tragic situation.

"We have a 56-year-old mother and her son who are going to lose their liberty for a period of time. They are going to lose their liberty because they did something terrible, but that's the only terrible thing they've done in their lives," said Sanderman.

Still, he said there were aggravating features in the case.

"This was a callous, cowardly act on a vulnerable victim in his own home … by a partner," he said. "A firearm was used. 

"Then the authorities were sent on a wild-goose chase."

Sanderman said the Naslunds have taken responsibility for their actions.

"I have empathy for the two of you," he said, "but this requires a stern sentence."

Both will receive a four-month credit for time served in custody or under house arrest. 

They will each need to submit a DNA sample to go into a national databank. Helen Naslund will also be subject to a lifetime firearms prohibition once she is released from prison.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 30, 2020.

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press