Burns Lake’s triple murder case had yet another twist.
Reuben Buhler, who had been charged with three counts of first-degree murder, pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder last week during a court appearance in Smithers.
“We obtained an agreement from the Crown that the first-degree murder charges would be dropped by Mr. Buhler pleading guilty to second-degree murder,” explained Buhler’s lawyer Jordan Allingham. “By doing so he has accepted responsibility for his actions.”
Second-degree murder is a deliberate killing carried out without planning. Now that Buhler has pleaded guilty, there will be no trial.
“He has done so out of remorse and did not want the victims’ families to have to go though a trial,” said Allingham.
Buhler will now automatically be sentenced to life in prison. All matters have been adjourned to May 2, 2017 to fix a date for the sentencing hearing, which will determine how soon Buhler could be eligible for parole. Allingham said the sentencing hearing will likely occur in the fall.
According to the B.C. Ministry of Justice and Attorney General, in the case of second-degree murder, the amount of time that must pass before the offender is eligible for parole is between 10 and 25 years. Allingham said it will be up to the parole board to determine his eligibility.
“We will advance the position at sentencing that because these pleas were entered prior to trial and Mr. Buhler’s genuine remorse, that a 15 to 20 year parole ineligibility period will be appropriate in this case.” said Allingham.
Wayne Ruttan, brother of one of the victims, said Buhler’s remorse means nothing to him or his family.
“We are sure he just feels sorry for his actions as they relate to himself,” said Wayne. “He chose to go home, get a high powered rifle and slaughter three innocent people in cold blood.”
“Little late for remorse to say nothing of the humiliation he has caused his own family,” added Wayne. “It is our hope that this man is never eligible for parole.”
Allana Watson, sister-in-law of one of the victims, said she doesn’t believe Buhler could ever have the amount of remorse applicable for his actions.
“If he felt remorse, he would plead guilty to first-degree murder on at least two of his victims, he would release where he disposed of the weapon, he would have called 9-1-1 to help save their lives,” said Watson. “He should not ever be eligible for parole as his behavior on July 26, 2015 proved he has no control of his emotions and feels he is entitled to murder people when he chooses.”
“His actions have damaged countless lives in all the victims’ families and his own family,” added Watson. “He is a high-risk offender and should remain contained for the communities’ protection.”
On April 27, 2015, at 8:25 a.m., the Burns Lake RCMP attended a residence in the 200 block of Fifth Avenue in Burns Lake after receiving a report of potential foul play. Neighbours said they heard gun shots ring out earlier that morning. When officers entered the residence, they found three people – Ridge Vern Vienneau, Ehr Ola Andersen and Mitchel Wade Ruttan – dead inside.
Watson said that on the night prior to the murder, the three individuals were having a barbecue and watching the finals of a hockey game. She said Mitchel was communicating back and forth via text message with his wife, who was in a different house.
“Nobody communicated about an incident happening,” said Watson. “6:04 a.m. is when all contact stopped between Mitchel and his wife.”
“Not one of them had a chance to call 911,” she added. “I was absolutely devastated.”