Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Destructive rampage 'could have been catastrophe'

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A woman abducted at knifepoint and stuffed in the trunk of a car. A high-speed police chase that ends in a $100,000-hockey-arena crash. An ammonia leak forces the evacuation of a Transcona neighbourhood.

Three frightening events. And one common link -- a man reeling at the sudden end of his marriage who suffered a "mental breakdown" and went on a destructive rampage last fall in Winnipeg.

"This could have been a catastrophe, an extreme tragedy," provincial court Judge Catherine Carlson said Tuesday upon hearing facts of the October 2013 incident.

Derek Chaves, 36, was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to kidnapping and motor-vehicle flight from police.

Chaves had otherwise been a normal, law-abiding citizen for much of his life until his 17-year relationship began to fall apart a couple years ago and his life "went off the rails," court was told.

He learned his wife had started a relationship with his best friend, whom they'd invited to live with them in Alberta, where they were all living at the time. The couple, along with their two teen children, moved to Brandon but couldn't repair the damage.

'Every time I think about it, it puts a chill down my spine'

"Think of your best friend being with your mate. Who would not feel betrayed?" defence lawyer Kevin Sneesby said Tuesday.

Chaves continued living with his son while his estranged wife and their daughter moved to Winnipeg. But Chaves was suddenly a different man, hitting the bottle hard and eventually getting arrested for impaired driving.

That accelerated his downward spiral.

Last Oct. 29, Chaves drove to Winnipeg and went to his wife's home, asking her to come outside and speak with him about their relationship. Once near his vehicle, he pulled out a knife and forced her inside.

He threatened to go kill her new boyfriend and "make her watch," then said he would kill her and himself. At one point, he stopped the car and forced her into the trunk, locked her inside and he sped away.

"Every time I think about it, it puts a chill down my spine," Crown attorney Scott Cooper said Tuesday.

The woman continued to scream and plead for help from the trunk, believing she was about to be killed.

"I can't imagine the fear and terror she must have had. What was going through her mind when she was in that trunk?" said Carlson. "I suspect she really felt she was going to die."

Fortunately, Chaves had a change of heart and let the woman out after driving around for some time. It's a decision that may have saved several lives.

She called 911 upon returning home while Chaves continued to drive around the city. He began calling her cellphone repeatedly, and an investigating officer intercepted one call in which Chaves claimed he was going to kill himself.

Police managed to track his location using satellite technology and tried to pull him over in the early morning hours of Oct. 30. Chaves took off, driving at extreme speeds that included going through numerous intersections without stopping. At one point his car became airborne over a bump in the road.

The chase ended abruptly when Chaves crashed into the East End Arena, triggering a huge ammonia leak that caused more than $100,000 damage. Police also had to cordon off the neighbourhood and evacuate numerous area residents in the middle of the night, fearing a potential explosion.

A memorial service for a well-known Transcona citizen, which was scheduled to be held later that day, was also impacted, forcing organizers to scramble for another location while community members rallied with food donations.

Chaves suffered minor injuries in the crash and repeatedly told police he was going to kill himself after his arrest.

He has been in custody for the past nine months. A court-ordered report finds him to be a high risk of re-involvement who still speaks of his anger, shame and betrayal over the way his marriage ended.

"This represents red flags going forward," said Cooper. The victim didn't attend the sentencing hearing but is an emotional wreck still living in fear, court was told.

"I'm really truly sorry for what happened," Chaves said Tuesday. "I'm thankful nobody else got hurt."

Upon release, Chaves is expected to move back to Alberta with other family members.

As part of his sentence, he's also been banned from driving for two years following his release from prison. He is also forbidden from having any contact with the victim or his children.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 30, 2014 A3


Updated on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 7:14 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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