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This article was published 30/8/2017 (1321 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A former firefighter has been sentenced to six months in jail for stealing from a dead woman’s apartment while he was on duty.
Darren Fedyck, 48, was sentenced Wednesday by provincial court Judge Kael McKenzie, who said it was necessary to incarcerate Fedyck to "send a strong message" after he abused his position of trust within the fire department.
"Society trusts you to care for us when we are at our most vulnerable. If you steal from someone, the consequences have to reflect the very serious breach of society’s trust." –Judge Kael McKenzie
"Firefighters, along with a number of other first responders and emergency services personnel, are in a unique position in our society," McKenzie said. "They are called upon for emergency situations and the people they are dealing with are often vulnerable. Emergency services workers are allowed entry into people’s homes, at times without permission. In this case, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service were not only entrusted with entry to the victim’s apartment but were allowed to be in the apartment unsupervised.
"This was a sad situation. An elderly woman passed away alone in her apartment. Mr. Fedyck’s conduct in stealing from this deceased woman is extremely serious."
The 76-year-old woman who died in her Henderson Highway apartment nearly two years ago was the "most vulnerable of victims," the judge said, and Fedyck and his crew were called there to help.
"He did the very thing we entrust firefighters not to do when they are in someone’s home: to resist the temptation to steal from people who are in need of their assistance as emergency services personnel. A strong message of denunciation has to be sent to Mr. Fedyck and to other emergency services personnel. Society trusts you to care for us when we are at our most vulnerable. If you steal from someone, the consequences have to reflect the very serious breach of society’s trust," McKenzie said.
Media coverage unfair: mother
Crown attorney Kevin Clayton had asked for a nine-month jail sentence, while defence lawyer James Wood asked for a suspended sentence with a period of probation or house arrest, which would have allowed Fedyck to stay out of jail.
"He’s a father and a person that works really, really hard." –Fedyck's mother
Wood offered no comment on the sentence on behalf of his client, but just prior to hearing the judge’s decision, Fedyck’s mother told the Free Press she believes media coverage of the case has been unfair.
"He really hasn’t told his side. He’s a father and a person that works really, really hard," she said, acknowledging her son "made a mistake back with Wawanesa," referring to her son's previous fraudulent insurance claim. He pleaded guilty to fraud under $5,000 in 2010 after "padding" a nearly $30,000 insurance claim. He falsely claimed two wedding rings worth $2,050 had been stolen during a break-in at his home. He was granted a conditional discharge.
Fedyck pleaded not guilty in this case and didn’t testify during his trial in the spring. He was convicted in a case based entirely on circumstantial evidence, since no one actually saw him steal. Four of his former colleagues at the Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Service testified against him.
On Oct. 2, 2015, Fedyck and co-workers from Fire Station 16 were called to check on the well-being of a 76-year-old woman in a Henderson Highway apartment block. They discovered her body inside the one-bedroom suite.
As they left the apartment, the crew realized they needed to retrieve the woman's Manitoba health card number. Fedyck went back to get it, and members of his crew got suspicious over the amount of time he was gone. A co-worker found him in the apartment with a purse or wallet in his hand.
Colleagues searched jacket
Other firefighters later found Fedyck's jacket balled up inside the truck and searched it, finding several hundred dollars in cash and two women's necklaces. Although the 76-year-old woman used only cash, there were no bills in her wallet when it was returned to her family.
The other firefighters took photos of the cash and jewelry they found in Fedyck's jacket and confronted him about it later that day. He denied stealing, saying he withdrew the cash from a bank machine and brought it to work to pay a co-worker who had agreed to do some work on his vehicle.
Fedyck told his co-workers the jewelry belonged to him and that he planned to sell one necklace. Because they hadn't seen him steal, the fire crew decided not to report the allegations. They didn't intend to go to police, court heard, until one of Fedyck's superiors decided to call the authorities about six weeks later.
They initially told police they saw the stolen items fall out of Fedyck's jacket. But shortly before the trial began in April, they came clean about their search of his jacket.
Fedyck was fired from the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service in April 2016, after he had been placed on administrative leave in December 2015 during the police investigation. He was suspended without pay later that month.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.