By Delon Shurtz on June 11, 2021.
A 23-year-old violent offender who walked away from a residential treatment centre last summer, has been ordered to spend another three and a half months in custody, followed by eight and a half months under community supervision.
The offender, who can’t be named because he was only 17 when he sexually assaulted a woman and cut her throat, had hoped he wouldn’t be returned to custody, despite being AWOL for several months from the Stan Daniels Healing Centre in Edmonton.
However, during a hearing Wednesday in Lethbridge provincial court, Crown Prosecutor Lisa Weich said an assessment prepared for the court indicates the offender should not be released to live in the community yet.
“There’s also an updated risk assessment…which says (the offender) still constitutes a high risk to the community at this point in time,” Weich said.
She asked the judge to accept the recommendations by case workers with the Intensive Rehabilitative Custodial Supervision program (IRCS) that the offender remain in custody until Sept. 22, and then be placed on community supervision for 255 days, to make up for the months he was away from the treatment centre.
The man was convicted in 2018 and handed in December of that year a three-year sentence under the IRCS program and two years probation on charges of sexual assault, break and enter to commit sexual assault, threats to cause death and unlawful confinement.
During the early morning hours of May 3, 2015, the man entered a southside apartment in Lethbridge where a woman was sleeping on a couch. He began sexually assaulting her before the woman’s stepfather awoke and confronted him. The man dragged her outside at knife point, continued to assault his victim, then cut her throat and fled.
The woman survived the slash, but she and her stepfather died of unrelated causes before the trial began. In previous statements to police, however, the stepfather described the assailant and provided his address. Police searched his home and found a shirt stained with the victim’s DNA.
Following his first year in custody, the offender was released to live in a halfway house under community supervision, but he breached conditions of his release order for being under the influence of non-prescribed medication.
He was arrested and returned to custody, but released again to the halfway house before being arrested a second time for failing to follow quarantine rules. He was still in custody when the judge released him last June on a new plan to attend the healing centre.
When the man’s status was set to be reviewed the following November, court was told the accused had walked away from the residential treatment facility and couldn’t be found.
The offender was arrested less than two months later, and during a hearing last March, Lethbridge lawyer Scott Hadford told court his client is motivated to do better because he wants to live with his girlfriend and her young child in Lethbridge, which is where he lived while he was missing from the healing centre.
“My client desperately wants to be out,” Hadford said.
During the same hearing, Weich said the man is unwilling to comply with court orders, and noted his issues with substance abuse will be the biggest risk factor if he’s released into the community too soon.
Weich pointed out that after police learned the offender was living with his girlfriend on Henderson Lake Boulevard South in the city, she refused to let them into her residence, and at first claimed she hadn’t seen him in some time. But on Jan. 12 of this year, police saw him leave the woman’s apartment and he was finally arrested.
The man told court he knew he had made mistakes and bad choices, but said people need to stop judging him for his past behaviour and give him a chance to show he has changed.
“Look into your heart and see the man I am today,” he urged Judge Gregory Maxwell in March. “I can stay out of jail and stay out of trouble.”
Hadford said Wednesday his client may now be willing “to enter into some form of residential treatment centre,” – which would be a form of custody – but arranging treatment has been difficult while the man is in custody.
Renee Clement, one of the offender’s IRCS case workers, told court that during the time the offender has been in custody since his arrest in January, his addiction counselor has applied for residential treatment. However, most programs require a release date before a prisoner can be placed on a two-month waiting list. She said it will be easier to get access to treatment and work with the offender while he is in custody.
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