Those close to a young Alberta woman and her baby who were murdered by their next-door neighbor say they are now scared of strangers and out-of-the-blue phone calls, which remind them of the day of their loved ones’ deaths.
Family and friends of 24-year-old Mchale Busch and 16-month-old Noah McConnell on Tuesday sent or read victim impact statements in court in Hinton, Alta., during a sentencing hearing for the pair’s killer.
On Sept. 16, 2021, Robert Keith Major, a convicted sex offender, sexually assaulted and strangled Mchale, later mutilating her body. He killed Noah by suffocating him.
Major pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in May.
He was in the courtroom Tuesday.
“How does anyone get over this? How do I allow my only other daughter to venture into such a dangerous world?” Mchale’s tearful father, Stuart Busch, asked during his statement.
He told the courtroom he experiences severe nightmares and cries every day.
Mchale’s mother, Karen Busch, videotaped her statement to be played in court, noting that she did not wish to “face the evil” that robbed her of her family.
“There are no more snuggles, no more giggles, no more rocking [Noah] to sleep at night, peace at watching him sleep.
“I was so blessed to hold Noah on his first night home from the hospital, overjoyed with his presence and trying to give his parents some much-needed rest. I have his baby book. And it’ll never be complete.”
“We are told to love our neighbors,” added Mchale’s sister, Janine Busch.
“I believe I will have trust issues for the rest of my life.”
Cody McConnell, Mchale’s partner and Noah’s father, chose to have the justice read his statement privately.
In total, 20 people spoke about the impact of Mchale and Noah’s deaths, including Mchale’s best friend who was on the phone with her when Major knocked on her apartment that morning.
“I heard you,” Mary Urzada told Major. “I heard you introduce yourself to my innocent baby nephew.”
When Urzada later learned her friend and Noah were missing, she implored the police to investigate Major because of the morning interaction.
“I’m so happy I overheard you,” Urzada told Major.
“My name is Mary and I hope you remember that for the rest of your life.”
‘THIS COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED’
Tuesday was the first of three days set aside for Major’s sentencing.
In court, many of the people who provided victim impact statements also vowed to continue pushing for legislative changes about how information about sex offenders is shared with law enforcement and landlords, a private bill they call “Noah’s Law.”
Edmonton police announced when Major was released in 2017, warning that he was at risk of offending again.
It is not known when Major moved to Hinton, about 300 kilometers west of Edmonton, or if that community was notified. Investigators say Major lived in the same apartment complex as Busch, McConnell and their child, who had moved to Hinton because McConnell had found work there.
At the time of Busch’s and Noah’s deaths, Major was placed under several court-ordered conditions, including a curfew and a ban from being around children, but RCMP say he had not been subject to any recognition conditions since July 2020.
Mchale and Noah’s loved ones feel their deaths represent a system failure.
“The criminals and murderers are not out in the back alley and dark places. Instead, they are allowed to live among us and even next door to us,” family friend Jared Sand said in court on Tuesday.
“How can it be simply moving in next door to someone can be so dangerous?” McHale’s dad asked.
“It is a big wound on my heart and I feel I will never heal. And to think, this could have been prevented,” Bruce Christensen, McConnell’s stepdad, commented.
The sentence for first-degree murder under the Criminal Code is life imprisonment without eligibility for parole before 25 years.
More to come…
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Joe Scarpelli