Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Eight years for violent attack that terrorized dad, daughter

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A Winnipeg man was sentenced to eight years in prison for his role in a daytime attack in which a 12-year-old girl was terrorized after her home was mistaken for a drug den.

Richard Petrowski, 41, pleaded guilty Friday to several charges stemming from the January 2009 incident in West Kildonan.

Provincial court Judge John Guy called the incident a "terrible crime."

A co-accused, Christopher Brisson, was previously sentenced to nearly 10 years behind bars.

Petrowski and Brisson armed themselves with a knife and pellet gun, donned Halloween masks and stormed inside the victim's home after knocking on the door and pretending to be police officers. Brisson was high on crystal meth and apparently thought the residence was empty and would be filled with drugs, court was told.

Instead, the little girl was home alone from school with strep throat. She called her stepfather to report strangers at the door, and the man said he was nearby and on his way. The girl then called her mother, who was still on the phone when the intruders kicked down a side door. The mother heard the line go dead and called 911.

"I'm scared," the girl told the men, who briefly pointed the gun at her head before rummaging through the house, grabbing various items and electronics. Moments later, her stepfather stormed in. He was punched in the face, knocked to the ground and beaten with the butt of the pellet gun -- all while the girl looked on.

The intruders bound his ankles and wrists with rope, but the stepfather was able to wriggle his hands loose. That prompted Brisson to grab a drill from the home, plug it in and move toward the man while threatening to put a hole in his legs. He also told the man he would be forced to have sex with his daughter if he didn't comply.

Police arrived on scene, triggering a lengthy foot chase that ended on Scotia Street near the Red River.

The stepfather suffered numerous cuts and bruises, while the girl wasn't physically injured. Both experienced severe emotional trauma and weren't in court for sentencing.

Crown attorney Carla Dewar told court Friday they struck a plea bargain with Petrowski in order to spare the girl from having to testify.

Lawyers made a joint recommendation for him to serve another six-and-a-half years in prison, in addition to the equivalent of 18 months already served.

"She's never even seen their faces before, because they were wearing masks, and her mother very strongly didn't want her to have to face them," Dewar said.

Petrowski's lawyer, Evan Roitenberg, said his client is the father of a teenager and regrets going forward with the crime once he realized the girl was inside the home. He said Brisson was the mastermind of the attack.

"He should have... turned around and left," said Roitenberg. He said Petrowski showed more concern for the girl than Brisson, including giving her back a necklace he was going to steal upon learning it contained her deceased sister's ashes.

"I'm not saying his actions on that day should afford him a medal," said Roitenberg.

Brisson has a longer previous criminal record, which is why he received a stiffer sentence, court was told.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 6, 2010 B2

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