File photo by Curtis Kreklau/South Fraser News Service

File photo by Curtis Kreklau/South Fraser News Service

Surrey man to serve two years in prison for manslaughter

Shawnn Patrick Cotter was killed in Cloverdale in 2018. Steven Edward Mueller pleaded guilty to manslaughter

Steven Edward Mueller has been sentenced to two years in prison and three years of probation after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the 2018 death of Shawnn Patrick Cotter in Cloverdale.

Justice James Williams, in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, noted the maximum for manslaughter is life in prison but accepted “unreservedly” that Mueller is “genuinely remorseful” for his crime.

There is no minimum sentence for the offence.

“The case before this court is tragic,” Williams said. “It involves two men – so near as I can tell, decent men, but in the throes of substance abuse and all the madness that entails. As I have observed, the evidence makes clear that Mr. Cotter was a good person. So, too, I find Mr. Mueller is essentially a good person, and yet here we are in a criminal court, one man dead, another whose life has changed dramatically and who is about to be sentenced to a term in prison.”

The judge stressed the distinction between manslaughter and murder. “The difference is important. Murder entails an intention to cause death. Manslaughter describes a situation where an act that results in death where there is no such intent proven,” he said. “I have no basis to find he intended to cause the death of Mr. Cotter, but it is also clear that the death was caused in a material way by the unlawful act of Mr. Mueller.”

Williams in his judgment, released March 31, noted the two men became friends at a substance abuse treatment centre in Abbotsford in 2017 and after they were discharged went their own way. Mueller rented a house in Surrey and Cotter moved in as a sub-tenant after returning from B.C.’s Interior, they relapsed and began using drugs and alcohol again.

“There were cascading problems from that,” the judge said, with Cotter losing his job, money problems and tension over rent issues. Cotter also blamed Mueller for his dog Cheeko getting killed after running out of the house and onto the street.

Cotter died on Jan. 6, 2018. Close to midnight, the court heard, Mueller telephoned his mother from a gas station near the house, told her “something bad had happened,” and she came over. She and her son confirmed Cotter wasn’t breathing, called 911 and police and other emergency responders found him on his back, with no shirt on the living room floor.

“The room was in disarray and furniture was spread about, some of it broken,” Williams noted. Cotter could not be revived and was pronounced dead at 1:17 a.m.

READ ALSO: Cloverdale ‘suspicious death’ confirmed as homicide of Shawnn Cotter

Mueller was arrested and taken to the police station, where he explained in a statement that he and Cotter had been getting “pretty high and pretty drunk” that night and started wrestling. He was released without charge. Roughly two weeks later, he was taken to Surrey Memorial Hospital after a car hit him while he was walking.

“On admission, he was expressing suicidal thoughts. He told the staff at the hospital about the physical altercation with his roommate and that the roommate had died, and expressed that he felt guilty for what had happened,” the judge said. “Mr. Mueller then said words to the effect that it would be better if he fell asleep and did not wake up.”

Mueller was discharged a few days later. Meantime, a post-mortem on Cotter revealed he had a significant amount of liquor and cocaine in his system and the pathologist concluded he died of blunt-force head trauma, suffered a brain bleed, and his intoxication contributed to his death.

Mueller was charged with manslaughter in September 2019 and was released on bail. He told the court he broke a CD player over Cotter’s head.

He had no prior criminal record.

“The victim impact statements were moving,” the judge said. “It is apparent to me that Mr. Cotter was essentially a good and decent man. He was loved and valued by many. His death, his loss has had repercussions in this world. The Court appreciates those statements having been made and views them as being important to this process.”

Williams noted there are no winners here.

“This process, with the imposition of the court’s sentence, will not make anything magically better. Mr. Cotter will not be brought back. Those who survive him will still have their pain and loss,” he said.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram  and follow Tom on Twitter

BC Supreme CourtSurrey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Online guide expected to make applying for building permits easier. (The News files)
City of Maple Ridge launches new building permit application tool

Users can print or save their results for easy access

Dogs big and small on the patio at Witchcraft Beer Market and Bistro. (City of Maple Ridge/Youtube)
VIDEO: Businesses embrace new Dog Friendly Maple Ridge pilot project

Pets can come onto a patio at a restaurant or enter participating retail spaces

A photo submitted to municipal staff on April 6 showing a beaver dam southwest of Chester Street. The drainage issues on the south side of the highway are the responsibility of CP Rail, as they own the property. Photo courtesy of the District of Mission.
Delegation of Silverdale farmers say land continually floods along Lougheed Highway

Beaver dams, siltation, fallen trees, bad ditching is sinking crops next to recently widened highway

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Ken Dockendorf is rallying opposition to the changes to high school sports governance. (The News files)
Maple Ridge coaches oppose changes to high school sports governance

Vote coming on May 1 could change varsity sports across B.C.

A screenshot from a Nuu-chah-nulth healing song and performance created in collaboration between Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso. (Screenshot from YouTube)
WATCH: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song

Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso share dance and inspiration.

Health Canada headquarters in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Health Canada releases guidelines for reducing COVID-19 transmission at home

Improve indoor air quality by opening up your windows and doors, among the encouraged ventilation measures

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

MP Todd Doherty took to Facebook after his family recently received threats. (Todd Doherty, MP Facebook photo)
‘I don’t run and I don’t hide’: Cariboo MP says RCMP probing threats made against family

Todd Doherty has also notified House of Commons Protective Services

Two men walk past a sign on Main Street in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calls for government transparency in COVID data continue as B.C.’s 3rd wave wears on

Social media, where both information and misinformation can spread like wildfire, has not helped

The music video for “Green and Blue” featured a Willington Care Centre in Burnaby as well as some of the volunteers and employees. (Screenshot/Todd Richard)
‘Green and Blue’: B.C. country musician releases tribute song for front-line workers

Richard’s new single has been viewed more than 3,000 times on his YouTube channel

An unidentified B.C. man said, in a human rights complaint, that he was refused a contract job after refusing to wear a mask when asked to by an on-site manager. (Unsplash)
Religious B.C. man lodges human rights complaint after fired for refusing to wear a mask

Worker’s claim that ‘to cover up our face infringes on our God-given ability to breathe’ dismissed by B.C. Human Rights Tribunal

Most Read