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The blazing Edson who set the dealerships, pet store, gets 10 years

The KW Pets fire killed all the animals inside, including hamsters, birds, rabbits, mice, gerbils, guinea pigs, snakes, lizards and fish

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A repeat offender who killed a Chihuahua puppy after setting two car dealers, a pet store and a gas station on fire has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, ending a trial repeatedly delayed for his unusual behavior.

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Hinton County District Court Judge Thomas I slander you Thomas James Beerop was sentenced on Friday, one week after the 39-year-old pleaded guilty to nine counts of break-ins and arson in the Edson area two years ago. The verdict was a joint bid by Crown and Berube, who were representing himself after his attorney was fired.

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“Based on the information before the court, the motive was greed,” Achtymichuk said. “His actions show a ruthless disregard for inflicting suffering on people, animals, and communities, all to sell some stolen goods for a few thousand dollars.”

Berube pleaded guilty to the crimes after repeatedly interrupting her trial Achtymichuk called “tricks” to delay proceedings. Most notably, Birubi removed all five of his toenails during the trial, prompting the court to issue an order to assess his suitability to appear before the court in which Birubi refused to participate.

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With the credit for pretrial custody, Berube has about 6 and a half years left to serve. He has 83 previous convictions, mostly of theft, theft and entry.

Between December 2019 and February 2020, Berube set fire to Edson’s Honda, Chrysler’s Dodge Jeep, Whitecourt’s KW Pets and Niton Junction Petro-Canada dealerships, causing millions of dollars in damage. He also set fire to a stolen truck used in one of the raids. In all five cases, Birubi recruited accomplices, often a teenager currently serving a nine-month prison sentence for his role in the crimes.

Berube admitted to setting fires to destroy evidence of the break-ins, which in total collected a few thousand dollars from stolen tires and portable generators. Berube also instructed his teenage partner accused of stealing a Chihuahua puppy named Striker from KW Pets, which Berube later killed and left in a ditch after realizing he had linked him to the crime. The KW Pets fire killed all the animals inside, including hamsters, birds, rabbits, mice, gerbils, guinea pigs, snakes, lizards, and fish.

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Striker, a Chihuahua dog was stolen from KW Pets in Whitecourt before Thomas Berube set the building on fire.  Birubi later killed the animal to cover up his connection to the crime.
Striker, a Chihuahua dog was stolen from KW Pets in Whitecourt before Thomas Berube set the building on fire. Birubi later killed the animal to cover up his connection to the crime. Photo by RCMP

The most serious crime, for which Birubi faced a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, was the fire he set late at night after storming Petro Canada. If not for a passing motorist who called 911, all 18 guests would have died because the building’s smoke alarms malfunctioned, said King Prosecutor Fotini Papadatu.

“None of the hostel residents knew about the fire until the firefighters woke them up,” she said.

The fires also caused lasting economic damage, with the Honda dealership, KW Pets, and Sew Right—the tailoring shop next door—remaining closed to this day.

“Many people have lost their jobs because of these crimes, either temporarily or permanently,” Achtymichuk said, adding that Berube’s actions caused “overwhelming fear and anxiety” in the communities.

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Berube and the teenager were captured by the RCMP in spruce on Feb 27. An earlier trial was postponed when Beerop fired his lawyer. Achtymichuk refused to postpone the trial after Berube fired Robert Glado, his fifth legal advisor, on August 23.

Birubi has repeatedly claimed that he suffers from an unspecified mental illness, which he blames on his actions. In addition to pulling off his toenails, Beerop on several occasions refused to speak to him Achtymichuk later claimed he was talking to bugs in the court’s holding cell.

After Achtymichuk found him fit for trial, Berube bit his arm until it bled, prompting the sheriffs to put him in a special protective helmet.

Achtymichuk said that while Berube may have had mental health issues, there is no indication that he could not follow through on the proceedings, or had any trouble understanding that his crimes were wrong. Beerup showed no signs of his past behavior and was conservative and polite during Friday’s hearing.

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“There is nothing before the court to indicate remorse or acceptance of responsibility,” Note Achtymichuk.

Achtymichuk agreed to give Berube a two-day credit for each day spent in pretrial detention, from a standard one-and-a-half to one due to “unusually harsh” conditions at the Edmonton Remand Center during the pandemic.

He also agreed to discontinue the pet ownership ban proposed by the Crown, and instead institute a 10-year ban that will begin while Berube serves his sentence in prison. Beerop said he has a dog who currently lives with an aunt.

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