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1 of 4 men accused in Douglasdale arson and murder pleads guilty

One of four men accused of murdering a Calgary man whose body was discovered in his burnt-out southeast home pleaded guilty Friday.

Originally charged with first-degree murder, Justin Alan Urban, 33, pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of Chad Kowalchuk, 53, who was killed in February 2022.

Three others, Justin Angus Boucher, 31, Ronald Leon Abraham, 42, and Robert Wayne Sims, 31, each face a charge of first-degree murder and are set to go on trial before a jury in October. 

Boucher faces an additional charge of arson. 

Because of the pending jury trial, prosecutor Shane Parker requested a publication ban at the outset of Urban’s plea.

The ban, which protects the rights of the three men still facing trial, prevents the publishing of any details from the agreed statement of facts and the victim impact statements. 

A second-degree murder conviction comes with a life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years. After hearing submissions from Parker and defence lawyer Jim Lutz, Justice Rosemary Nation ruled Urban can apply for parole after 16 years.

Parker pitched a 17-year parole ineligibility while Lutz argued it should be less than what the Crown proposed. 

Previously released details of the crime are permitted to be published.

Fire set to ‘conceal evidence’

On Feb. 18, 2022, a fire was reported in the 100 block of Douglas Ridge Green S.E.

After it was extinguished, first responders discovered Kowalchuk’s body inside the home. 

It’s believed Kowalchuk was killed five days before the fire. Police said at the time that investigators suspected the fire was set in an effort to “conceal evidence.”

The discovery of the body sparked what police described as a complex investigation.

Victim ‘did not deserve this’

Over the next two months, Calgary police made a series of arrests ending with Urban being taken into custody on April 24, 2022.

A second-degree murder conviction comes with a life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years.

Although the victim impact statements presented by Kowalchuk’s family are also covered by the publication ban, his brother Dean Kowalchuk previously spoke to CBC News, describing him as a “fun loving and caring person.”

“Chad came from a family that loved and adored him very much. [He] did not deserve this end.”

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