Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sadist spared life sentence

Home invader can seek parole in 2021

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A Winnipeg man who committed a sadistic home invasion as part of a plot to become a notorious serial killer is guaranteed to one day regain his freedom -- a fact justice officials warn could have deadly results.

The Crown was seeking a rare life sentence against the 20-year-old accused, saying it was the only way to protect society from one of the most cold-blooded criminals the courts have ever seen. But provincial court Judge Rob Finlayson disagreed Monday, giving the man a fixed sentence of 18 years in addition to two years time already served.

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"The facts of this case are so egregious," said Finlayson. "How a human being could contemplate doing these sorts of atrocities to another human being truly boggles the mind."

Finlayson then took the unusual step of ordering the accused to serve half of his remaining penalty behind bars before he can apply for parole in 2021. Although there's no guarantee he would be released at that time, his sentence will fully expire in 2030.

The Crown had argued it was "dangerous guesswork" to give the man anything but a life term, saying his heinous acts must be condemned and a high risk to reoffend must be addressed with a lifetime safety net. Defence lawyer Danny Gunn had requested a 14-year penalty, saying it's too early to give up hope for his client.

"I certainly understand the desire for vengeance in this case. But it has no place in the justice system," Gunn said in his submissions last month. "A true measure of a just society is the manner in which we treat those least deserving of our empathy."

In a strange twist, the man would have been eligible for parole much sooner had he been given a life term. By law, those who receive life for a non-homicide can apply seven years from the date of arrest, which would be 2017 in this case. However, even if he was eventually released he would always be under the control of the parole board, which could revoke his release at any time and hold him indefinitely.

Finlayson said he couldn't dish out a life term because he must credit the accused with pleading guilty, along with his youthful age. Although he was 18 at the time, the Free Press is not identifying the man in order to publish details about his involvement with the justice system when he was a youth.

The four victims -- a husband, wife, 17-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son -- suffered extensive physical and emotional trauma during the October 2010 attack in North Kildonan.

The accused selected them at random after following the daughter home on a city bus as part of his plan to rape, torture and possibly kill people in an attempt "to become infamous," court was told. He made the woman tie up her children and husband with duct tape. He assaulted, terrorized, degraded and sexually tortured them until the father and son finally broke free, overpowered him and held him for police.

Police seized hundreds of computer documents that included references to purchasing a torture kit and praise for well-known serial killers. Police also found images of raped and slain women from a reality website the teen frequented, stories he downloaded about incest and thousands of images of violent pornography. On the final day of submissions, the parents of the invader apologized to the victims and begged the justice system for leniency.

"We would give our lives to change the events that occurred in what should have been the safe haven of their home," they wrote. "We pray every day for their healing and hope one day they will feel safe in their home again."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 2, 2012 B1

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