Killer 'robbed' victim of chance to turn life around, family tells judge

Dustin Kusch, 35, was fatally stabbed in 2020. He left behind two children.  ( - image credit)
Dustin Kusch, 35, was fatally stabbed in 2020. He left behind two children. ( - image credit)

A Calgary judge heard tearful victim impact statements from the family of a man who died on his front steps after being stabbed by Justin Sutherland, who was handed a nine-year prison sentence Monday.

Sutherland, 37, fatally stabbed Dustin Kusch, 35, on September 21, 2020.

Originally charged with second-degree murder, Justice Willie deWit found the killer guilty of manslaughter following a trial last year.

At a sentencing hearing on Monday, deWit heard from six of Kusch's family members, including his parents, wife and two daughters.

Sutherland is currently serving five-and-a-half years for an unrelated armed robbery.

Kusch struggled with addictions, according to his family. But they never lost hope that he would get sober for good.

"Unfortunately addiction was very real for him and he hated it, he hated being addicted," said the victim's mother, Kathy Kusch.

"Dustin had a huge heart and always tried so hard to fit in."

'He struggled to help himself'

Kusch's wife, Christine Shirley, addressed Sutherland directly in her statement.

"He always wanted to help other people even though he struggled to help himself," said Shirley.

"Dustin wasn't perfect … but you robbed him of the chance to become who he wanted to be for me and his girls."

Kusch was stabbed by Sutherland five times.

No motive was ever established and Sutherland never testified in his own defence.

'He was doing so well'

Through tears, Kusch's daughters both talked about his talent for fixing cars and stereos.

Taylor Kusch recounted sitting on her dad's lap for her first time driving while he operated the gas and brake pedals.

She also described her mother coming into her bedroom to deliver the news.

"I immediately felt guilt because last time we spoke, I was mad at him for making bad choices," she said.

"I just wanted my dad to be sober, he was doing so well and then he relapsed and now he doesn't get that chance to get better."

Defence lawyers Jordan McDermott and Lance McClean proposed an eight-year sentence, while prosecutors Peter Mackenzie and Nicole Rozier asked the judge to impose a 10-year prison term.

McDermott noted that Sutherland had a difficult childhood, marred with substance abuse, physical abuse and a foster care placement that took him away from his mother and siblings.

But while Mackenzie acknowledged the offender's "challenging upbringing," he also pointed to Sutherland's four knife-related convictions in recent years.