A grieving northern Ontario woman says she just wants the rest of her slain son’s remains returned to her.
Wesley Hallam, 29, was killed in 2011 at a drug-fuelled house party in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., where he was stabbed to death, decapitated and dismembered. His mother has been waiting more than five years for her son’s head — it’s been a key piece of evidence in his horrific death.
“All I have is his torso, which was cremated,” Sandra Hallam said in an emotional interview from her home in the northern Ontario city.
When she finally gets her son’s head back, Hallam says she’ll bury him next to his grandparents after a service that a local funeral parlour will provide free of charge.
Hallam is depressed, and now livid, following a plea deal between Crown attorneys and the three men accused in her son’s death.
A first-degree murder trial loomed this October for Eric Mearow, Ronald Mitchell and Dylan Jocko, but on July 28, all pleaded guilty to manslaughter and causing an indignity to a human body. All three could walk free within two years because of time already served.
Hallam is back on the medication to numb the agony that first consumed her in early January 2011 when she learned her son had died.
She has trouble talking about the Crown attorneys without cursing. They surprised her with the plea deal just three weeks ago.
On July 15, Hallam says Crown attorney John Luczak arrived from Sudbury to tell the family they had struck the deal. The room exploded in anger. Hallam says her mother ordered Luczak out of the house, while she demanded the local prosecutor, Kelly Weeks, come tell her in person.
The case’s lead investigator, Insp. Mike Kenopic, had to go fetch Weeks, Hallam said.
Hallam says the prosecutors told her and her daughter, Shannon, who was also present, that the case was fraught with “frailties” due to the intoxication of the accused via a cornucopia of drugs they consumed that night.
Neither Luczak nor Weeks responded to repeated requests for comment on the case.
A spokesman for the Ontario Attorney General’s office wouldn’t comment specifically on the case either except to say “plea resolutions are about achieving just and appropriate resolutions in criminal matters.”
Brendan Crawley added: “The decision to accept or reject the plea ultimately rests with the judge, who must decide if the plea is appropriate.”
Beneath Hallam’s anger lies guilt. She blames herself for her son’s death.
“I asked him to come home for Christmas and that was my biggest mistake,” she said as she began to cry.
Her son had been in the Toronto area working on a potato farm, trying to get away from the Sault. It gave her hope.
She knew her son wasn’t a saint. He had spent time in jail and was part of the city’s drug subculture.
He left town after an incident in November where a woman was severely beaten at a crack house, according to court documents. Her son helped stop the beating, but did show up with the two people involved.
Wesley Hallam returned for a few weeks over the Christmas break to see his mother and other family members, including his five-year-old son.
There was yet another incident early on Jan. 1, 2011, where two of the three men who later pleaded guilty to manslaughter, Mitchell and Mearow, “ejected” Hallam from the same house where he’d eventually die after he tried to get into a girl’s room, according to the agreed statement of facts in the case.
“He was all black and blue down his back because he got thrown down the stairs,” Hallam said.
On Jan. 7, she said she gave her son bus fare to return to Toronto. While she was out, he had one of his favourite meals — a salmon sandwich that his grandmother made — and he showered, walked the dog, hugged his grandfather and left for the night with friends.
She said she spoke to him on the phone later and he sounded agitated, asking if anyone had called looking for him. Around 11:30 p.m. that night, he went to a party at Mearow’s house. While doing cocaine with Mearow and Mitchell, a fight occurred.
Wesley Hallam had apparently called one of the men a “goof” — a derogatory term used behind bars to describe a “rat” or child molester, according to the agreed statement of facts.
A knife fight soon broke out and Mitchell stabbed Wesley Hallam in the neck, which severed his jugular vein and carotid artery, says the court document. It says Mearow then directed Jocko to cut off Hallam’s head, hands and feet in the bathtub.
Both Sandra Hallam and Sault Ste. Marie police chief Robert Keetch have problems with the agreed statement of facts, but wouldn’t get into details.
Crown attorney Philip Zylberberg told Superior Court Justice Ian McMillan on July 28 that several factors — including the level of intoxication and potential weakness in evidence — spurred the prosecution to accept a manslaughter plea.
Hallam read a victim impact statement in court that day, even though, she says, it felt useless at that point.
She doesn’t know what’s next. She had a good day recently, spending time with her daughter, Shannon, for her grandson’s birthday.
Then she ran into a friend on the way home and she broke down in tears. She recently saw her other grandson, Wesley’s boy, after a nearly four-year hiatus, but isn’t sure she’ll see him again for a while.
She said she’s considering a lawsuit. Both she and Shannon are worried about the time two years down the road when all three of Wesley Hallam’s killers are released from jail.
“I know there’s people waiting for them in jail,” she says, her voice rising. “I know they’re scared. There has to be some justice, why should they be protected? No one helped my son.”