Abbotsford man receives four-year sentence for shooting estranged wife

Robert McMath was previously convicted of manslaughter

Robert McMath of Abbotsford was sentenced on Friday in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.

Robert McMath of Abbotsford was sentenced on Friday in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.

An Abbotsford man has been sentenced to four years in prison for the 2008 shooting death of his estranged wife.

Robert McMath, 70, was sentenced Friday in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, where he was given credit for 42 days of time served, leaving 323 days of his sentence.

The Crown had recommended that McMath receive the mandatory minimum sentence of four years for manslaughter “where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence.”

Conviction for such an offence can range from four years to life in prison.

He had initially been charged with the second-degree murder of Janice McMath, but he was found guilty in December 2013 of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

The judge at the time said Crown did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that McMath intentionally shot Janice, 64, to kill her and prevent her from going after certain assets in their divorce.

The court heard that Janice visited the McMath family farm in the Bradner area on May 28, 2008. She and McMath were separated at the time, but McMath said the two had remained friendly.

McMath testified that he had moved a loaded .32 Remington rifle outside near the chicken coop because he was concerned about coyotes.

On the night in question, he told Janice he had some work to do in the barn, and she accompanied him as the two drank wine and talked.

They later headed back toward the house, and McMath testified that on their way, he picked up the nearby rifle with the intention of unloading it. He said his back was turned to Janice, but she walked in his path as he stumbled, due to his arthritic knee giving out, and the gun went off.

McMath reported that the gun went off again when he fell, and Janice was shot a second time in the chest.

She was rushed to hospital, where she died on June 7.

The trial judge said she found McMath guilty of manslaughter because he was negligent in the way he stored the gun and had failed to engage the gun’s safety mechanism while there was a cartridge in the chamber.

If McMath had been found guilty of second-degree murder, he would have received an automatic life sentence.