Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Five years for plot to blow up building

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A convict's crude plan to blow up the downtown Winnipeg apartment he was about to be evicted from has cost him five years of freedom.

"I just didn't think about what I was doing," Joel Calder said, after admitting to an arson count for the major scare he caused on Assiniboine Avenue last August.

The evidence may suggest otherwise.

Calder, 49, shoved six half-full mason jars of gasoline in his oven the day before he was to appear at a hearing to be evicted, prosecutor Dave Mann told provincial court.

He left the lid off one of the jars so the vapours would ignite, turned the oven to 400 C and fled, locking the kitchen door behind him.

Some of the gasoline fumes caught fire, leading to the outbreak of a small fire.

Sharp-nosed occupants noticed the smell and called their landlord, who called 911. The damage was minimal, with estimates ranging from $400 to $900.

But the prospect for calamity was huge, court heard. Emergency crews -- including a haz-mat unit -- rushed to the scene and took no chances. The entire block and one adjacent to it were evacuated as a precaution.

The scare prompted more than 30 per cent of the building's tenants to move out, its landlord told Judge Tracey Lord in an impact statement.

She still feels afraid of what Calder's capable of, Mann said.

"I believe he would do his worst if given the opportunity," she wrote.

Calder had lived in the block for about eight years, defence lawyer Barry Sinder said.

It was only in Calder's last six months of living there that there was any trouble. Calder experienced an onset of episodes of "emotional stress and depression," said Sinder.

Calder personally apologized for what he said were his "extremely selfish actions."

Lord said he was just lucky there were no injuries or major damage.

"That's good fortune -- no credit to you, because you walked away and let it all unfold as it did," she said.

Calder is no stranger to violent crime.

In 1992, he was handed seven years for the attempted murder of a total stranger. He attacked a woman who had shunned his advances, stabbing her many times.

The victim had to jump from a second-floor window to escape, Mann said. Calder served all seven years of his sentence.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 20, 2014 A3

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