Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Home invader gets 40 months; family traumatized

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A young pregnant mother and three children in her care were terrorized after men smashed into her home with a hammer at night and made violent threats.

The crime has left the eldest child, now six years old, still suffering serious trauma more than two years later, court was told Monday.

"I need help, I need help," the panicked woman told an RCMP dispatcher in a 911 call played by the Crown.

The young mom's demeanour descends into terror as the house invaders barge into the bedroom from which she and the kids are calling police.

"(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 at nearly 4 a.m. 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.

"They told her to tell her children to say goodbye to their dad," Dalmyn said of the 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 them. "And then they just walked out."

Bartlett pleaded guilty Monday to breaking and entering and breaching a bail curfew 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 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 start talking about the home invasion, said Dalmyn, adding it was a "horrifying, terrifying experience."

Given the circumstances of the crime, Menzies appeared reluctant to accept a jointly recommended sentence of 40 months in prison for Bartlett.

"When I heard the facts, I was thinking eight to 10 years," Menzies said.

Defence lawyer Darren Sawchuk told Menzies that Bartlett's life was marred at a young age by abuse, exposure to violence and the generational effects of Canadian residential schools, which both his parents attended.

He has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Sawchuk said. While in custody during the last 16 months, Bartlett has taken substance-abuse treatment and other programming.

There was no physical harm done in the home invasion, 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 came from 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," the judge said. "You come in front of the court as a seriously violent person."

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 1, 2014 A3

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