A young, pregnant mother and three kids in her care were left terrorized after men smashed into her home with a hammer under the cover of night and made violent threats.
The senseless crime has left the eldest child, now six years old, suffering from serious trauma more than two years later, court heard on Monday.
"I need help, I need help," the panicked woman urged to an RCMP dispatcher in a 911 call played by the Crown.
The young mom's demeanour descends into almost-indescribable terror as the house invaders barge into the bedroom from which she and the kids are calling police from.
"(He's) not here," she screams several times at the intruders. Angry yelling from male voices can be heard in the background of the taped call.
"Can you lock the door?," the calm female dispatcher asks. "No," the then 22-year-old woman says.
Matthew Bartlett, 28, and at least one other man smashed their way into the woman's Long Plain First Nation home in hopes of confronting her estranged spouse about a debt on Nov. 29, 2011, Crown attorney Joyce Dalmyn told Court of Queen's Bench Justice John Menzies. It was nearly 4 a.m. when the break-in happened.
"They told her to tell her children to say goodbye to their dad," Dalmyn said of the angry threats made to the woman.
"'I just want you to know we're going to bury (him) and your kids aren't going to have a dad anymore,'" Dalmyn quoted. "And then they just walked out," she said.
Bartlett pleaded guilty to breaking and entering and for breaching a bail curfew Monday, on what was to be the first day of his trial in Portage la Prairie. At the time of the incident he was barred from even being in the Long Plain community.
The oldest child victim remains traumatized, Menzies was told.
She will wake up screaming in the middle of the night or sometimes, at random, just start talking about what happened, said Dalmyn. It was a "horrifying, terrifying experience," Dalmyn said.
Menzies appeared somewhat reluctant to accept a jointly recommended sentence of 40 months in jail for Bartlett given the circumstances of what happened.
"When I heard the facts I was thinking eight to 10 years," said Menzies.
Defence lawyer Darren Sawchuk impressed upon Menzies how Bartlett's life was marred at a young age by abuse, exposure to violence and the generational effects of Canadian residential schools, of which both his parents attended.
He's been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, said Sawchuk. While in custody over the last 16 months, Bartlett has done substance abuse treatment and other programming. Also, there was no physical harm done in the case, Sawchuk noted.
"I've hurt a lot of people," Bartlett said. "I can't blame anyone for what I did."
Because the joint submission on sentence was made by senior lawyers, Menzies agreed to endorse the plea deal.
Bartlett has prior convictions for assaults and robberies, court was told.
"You're (28) years old and your upbringing was horrible but there comes a point where every man has to say, 'enough, now I'm responsible for who I am,'" Menzies said.
"You gotta stop this," said the judge. "You come in front of the court as a seriously violent person."