A man who killed a woman when he injected her with a powerful narcotic has been sentenced to two years in prison.
Donald Wayne Bustard didn’t intend to harm Chantelle Marie Halcro when he injected her with hydromorphone.
"You have two people looking to get high and running dangerous risks to do so, and the result is another sad overdose death," Crown attorney Jim Ross said during sentencing in Brandon provincial court on Monday.
But Bustard was nevertheless reckless when he sold the hydromorphone to 25-year-old Halcro, cooked it, and injected her.
"He did that without regard for the risk to her life or her safety," Ross said.
Bustard pleaded guilty on Monday to criminal negligence in causing the death of Halcro, whose body was found in her Brandon apartment nearly two years ago.
Halcro was born and raised in Winnipeg, and her family says she moved to Brandon a year to 18 months before she died.
In court, Ross delivered the following account of the death of Halcro, who loved to laugh and have fun but may have been too trusting.
"Her family says she wasn’t handicapped, but she had a lower IQ, so she could be very trusting of people," Ross said. "She wanted to be accepted, and sometimes she was taken advantage of because she was trusting."
In Winnipeg, Halcro had fallen in with a crowd that was doing a lot of marijuana and cocaine, Ross said.
To get her away from that group and get her life on track, her family got Halcro into Youth for Christ’s Uturn project in Brandon.
But on the evening of July 31, 2012, police were called to Halcro’s apartment at the Uturn building downtown on Rosser Avenue when a fellow resident found her body on her bed. She’d been dead for several hours, at least.
A man present when Halcro was injected told police what happened.
That witness told investigators that Bustard had come over to Halcro’s basement suite the night before, and Bustard and Halcro had been shooting up.
Halcro gave Bustard $10 for the hydromorphone capsules (a powerful pain medication only available by prescription) and Bustard diluted and cooked the drug for injection.
The witness said Halcro and Bustard then went into the bathroom to shoot up, and Bustard would emerge to cook more of the drug.
As Bustard got more high, he needed help from the witness to inject himself. The witness then watched as Bustard tied off Halcro’s arm with a belt and injected her.
Four needle marks were found in Halcro’s arm, and she had a large amount of hydromorphone in her system. She died of respiratory failure — the drug suppressed her breathing and she died in her sleep.
Ross said there were other, unspecified, central nervous system depressants in Halcro’s system, but the hydromorphone could have killed her on its own.
Capsules are designed to release hydromorphone over time. By cooking the drug and injecting it, Halcro was exposed to its effects all at once.
Death would be more likely in the case of a first-time user like Halcro.
Bustard was arrested on Nov. 27, 2013 after a long police investigation and has been in custody since.
None of the three people who were in the apartment when Halcro was injected had a prescription for hydromorphone. How Bustard got the drug remains a mystery as he told police he knew nothing about the pills.
Bustard has struggled with substance abuse himself and it has been at the root of his run-ins with the law in recent years, Ross said.
Originally from New Brunswick, Bustard moved to Brandon about 10 years ago. Since then, he has been convicted of an assault, various breaches of court orders and, most recently, a theft from a liquor store.
Defence lawyer Ryan Fawcett said 52-year-old Bustard and Halcro met about a year before her death and they were on friendly terms.
"Mr. Bustard knew that she was a user of drugs, that was something that they had in common," Fawcett said.
Bustard wasn’t a regular user of hydromorphone, Fawcett said, but Halcro had turned to him because of her own inexperience with injecting drugs.
Bustard apologized to Halcro’s brother and her stepfather, who were in court.
"I am truly sorry to the family, I truly am sorry," Bustard said.
Judge Donovan Dvorak accepted a plea bargain reached by Ross and Fawcett and imposed two years in prison, minus time-and-a-half credit of 255 days pre-sentence custody. That leaves a sentence of 475 days to serve.
Following court, Halcro’s stepfather, Larry Halcro, and her brother, Rik Halcro, said they don’t hate Bustard.
Larry said his daughter smoked marijuana, but hardly drank and wasn’t one to use needles or harder drugs. She may have put trust in Bustard as a sort of father figure.
Rik said he even feels sorry for Bustard and where his addiction led him.
"I’m not angry, I don’t hold any ill regards towards this man," Rik said. "It does honestly seem like a mistake, and I do hope he is as remorseful as he says he is and does want to turn his life around."
Stepfather and brother hope the sentence will provide some closure, even as they still struggle with losing Halcro.
Bustard is one of three people to be convicted of overdose deaths in Westman in recent years.
In April 2006, Sean Devine was sentenced to three years in prison for criminal negligence causing the death of 36-year-old Lindy Pearl Antoine. Antoine overdosed on the oxycodone that Devine had brought to a Brandon home.
In June 2011, Ernest Leon Mentuck was sentenced to a total of two years in jail, minus 28 months credit for pre-sentence custody, for manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death. Mentuck was the source of morphine patches that led to the deaths of Raymond Joseph Clearsky and Brent Robert Malcolm at Waywayseecappo First Nation in 2009.