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Families reflect on release of man convicted in Mayerthorpe RCMP shootings

Dennis Cheeseman waits in the cafeteria in the law courts in Edmonton, Alberta on Monday Jan. 19, 2009. Cheeseman and Shawn Hennessey pleaded guilty Monday to four counts of manslaughter in the deaths of the four Mounties James Roszko ambushed, shot and killed inside his Quonset hut outside Mayerthorpe on March 3, 2005.

Jimmy Jeong/The Canadian Press

The families of four Alberta Mounties gunned down in 2005 are reflecting as one of the two men convicted in the deaths gets out of prison.

Dennis Cheeseman's statutory release date is Tuesday after serving two-thirds of a seven-year, two-month, 15-day sentence for manslaughter. But a source said his release would come one day earlier.

Colleen Myrol, mother of slain Const. Brock Myrol, said she hopes that Cheeseman, 29, will turn his life around.

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She said she wants to forgive him, but she can't just yet.

"I am compelled to forgive, because that is what I believe as a Christian; however, I can't forget," Myrol said from her home in Red Deer, Alta.

"I would like him to come to my door and knock on it and sit down and talk to me. To forgive, someone has to ask for forgiveness."

Cheeseman and his brother-in-law, Shawn Hennessey, pleaded guilty to manslaughter for giving James Roszko a rifle and a ride the night before Roszko ambushed the RCMP officers on March 3, 2005, near the town of Mayerthorpe.

The Mounties had been guarding a hut on Roszko's farm as part of a marijuana grow-op and automobile chop-shop investigation.

Roszko was shot and wounded by another Mountie and then killed himself.

Rev. Don Schiemann, father of Const. Peter Schiemann, said he wishes Cheeseman well.

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"I don't harbour any bitterness or hatred toward him. To do so would mean to succumb to the same vile motivations which drove James Roszko to ambush and murder those now known as the Fallen Four," Schiemann wrote in an email.

"Rather, I look to the example of our Lord who prayed for those who crucified him: 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."' Schiemann is president of the Alberta-British Columbia district of Lutheran Church-Canada.

The other Mounties who died that day were constables Anthony Gordon and Leo Johnston.

Doreen Jewell-Duffy, Gordon's mother, said it is hard to believe that Cheeseman will be free to live his life when all that is left to her are memories of her son.

"It is just that he gets to go home and my son will never come home," she said from her home in central Alberta. "He should serve his years the court had given him."

Grace Johnston, constable Johnston's mother, wrote a personal message to Cheeseman to express her feelings about his release.

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"Dennis, I hope you realize how fortunate you are to have, in such a short time, your freedom back, even if it is temporarily restrictive," she wrote from her home in Lac La Biche.

"I also hope that you never forget that you caused so much pain and loss to so many that will never go away by you being a big part in taking the freedom, the life, of our son, a brother, an uncle, from us forever."

Hennessey, 34, the other man who pleaded guilty to the crime, was sentenced to 10 years and four months. He applied for early parole from Grande Cache Institution last year, but was denied. His statutory release date is Dec. 29, 2015.

Cheeseman had applied for parole in 2011 while at Drumheller Institution, but was also denied. Earlier this year, he cancelled another parole hearing and opted instead to wait for automatic release.

A National Parole Board report earlier this year said Cheeseman, who is from the Barrhead area northwest of Edmonton, is bound to face public hostility when he gets out.

The report said Cheeseman was a model prison inmate, attending school and working as a cleaner. It said he didn't have a job lined up but plans to live with a relative until he can get his own place.

Cheeseman's sister Christine is married to Hennessey. Messages left at her home were not returned.

Cheeseman is to get psychological counselling and abstain from drugs and alcohol. He is not to associate with criminals. The conditions remain in effect until his entire sentence expires on April 13, 2016.

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