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Home invader seeks lesser sentence for assault, torture

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A Winnipeg man who committed a shocking suburban home invasion claims he should only be sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Defence lawyer Danny Gunn wrapped up a three-day sentencing hearing Thursday by saying the Crown’s request for a rare life term is far too extreme. He urged provincial court Judge Rob Finlayson to balance punishment with rehabilitation, saying it’s much too early for society to give up on his 20-year-old client.

Finlayson has reserved his decision until Oct. 1. If he receives a life sentence, the man is eligible to apply for parole after just seven years behind bars under provisions of the Criminal Code. He’s been in custody since October 2010, meaning he could be free as early as October 2017. However, he would remain on strict parole conditions for the rest of his life if he were to be returned to the community.

If given a fixed term such as 12 years, the man would be eligible for parole after serving one-third of that total sentence. As well, he would no longer be under any supervisory conditions in the community once the full term expired – a risk the Crown has called "dangerous guesswork" given his heinous acts and high risk to re-offend.

Justice officials say the accused is a cunning, manipulative deviant who will likely resume his quest for criminal infamy if ever released from prison. But Gunn has painted the man as a victim because his desperate cry for help went unheeded.

Although he was 18 at the time, the Free Press is not identifying the man in order to publish details about his involvement with the justice system when he was a youth. That involvement leads to questions about the type of supervision and treatment he received while free in the community and while being assessed.

The four victims -- a husband, wife, 17-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son -- suffered extensive physical and emotional trauma during the 90-minute attack. The accused selected them at random after following the daughter home on a city bus as part of his plan to rape, torture and possibly kill innocent people in an attempt "to become infamous," court was told.

Police seized hundreds of computer documents that included references to purchasing a torture kit and praise for well-known serial killers. Police also found images of raped and slain women from a reality website he frequented, stories he downloaded about incest and thousands of images of violent pornography.

"This scenario was worse than a parent's worst nightmare. This offence is unimaginable," Crown attorney Cindy Sholdice said Wednesday "The victims are already serving a life sentence of their own. They're living with gaping wounds."

Gunn has launched a scathing attack on the provincial medical system, saying officials ignored warning signs about his client. He said the October 2010 ambush in North Kildonan could have been prevented.

"I become increasingly frustrated at the signs that were there and the steps that could have been taken," Gunn told court.

The accused was first arrested in April 2010 while walking through the Exchange District carrying a knife and wearing a disguise.

In September 2010, he told doctors about following a young woman home from a life-skills class he was taking. He had written in his diary about wanting to kill her, but changed his mind after discovering she lived in an apartment and not a home.

The doctor contacted the crisis-stabilization unit and he was hospitalized Sept. 25 at Health Sciences Centre -- but released Sept. 29 when he showed improvement while medicated and claimed he'd made up several stories to seek attention.

"How can he go from homicidal to fine in five days?" Gunn asked Wednesday in court.

The judge agreed, questioning whether police should have been consulted. But the Crown suggested the invader is ultimately to blame, as he's had a supportive network of family and doctors willing to help him, which he's ignored.

He attacked the family on Oct. 16, forcing his way inside their home while carrying a gun and knife.

He made the woman tie up her children and husband with duct tape. He assaulted, terrorized, degraded and sexually tortured them until the father and son finally broke free, overpowered him and held him for police.

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