Former Brampton fire captain pleads guilty to wife's murder

 James Schwalm, of Collingwood, Ont., is pictured here after he was promoted to captain at Brampton Fire and Emergency Services. He has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the death of his wife. (Twitter/Brampton Fire and Emergency Services - image credit)
James Schwalm, of Collingwood, Ont., is pictured here after he was promoted to captain at Brampton Fire and Emergency Services. He has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the death of his wife. (Twitter/Brampton Fire and Emergency Services - image credit)

A former Brampton fire captain has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder after strangling his wife and then burning her body in an SUV in an effort to cover up the crime.

Collingwood man James Schwalm pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Superior Court last week in relation to the death of his wife Ashley Schwalm, whose burned body was found in an SUV in the Blue Mountains in January of 2023.

According to an agreed statement of facts submitted in the case, Blue Mountains Fire Services responded to a 911 call about a burning vehicle that had left the road in the area of Arrowhead Road, just south of Highway 26, shortly before 6 a.m. on Jan. 26.

Ashley Schwalm's body was found inside, burned beyond recognition. Investigators used dental records to confirm her identity.

A forensic pathologist's investigation later revealed that she was not alive at the time of the fire, but instead had died of neck compressions.

The statement of facts goes on to say that Schwalm had strangled his wife, and then dressed her in hiking clothes and placed her body in the SUV she regularly used to drive to work.

In the early morning of June 26, while the couple's children were still asleep, Schwalm then drove the SUV with his wife's body inside from their Collingwood home to the area of the Alpine Ski club, according to court documents.

Schwalm proceeded to drive the car off the road to make it look like it had been involved in a crash, the court documents say, before covering the inside of the vehicle and his dead wife's body with gas and lighting it, then taking off.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 26 in Barrie.

The minimum sentence for second-degree murder in Canada is life in prison with no possibility of parole for 10 years, but sentences can be as long as life in prison without parole for 25 years.