June 16th, 2024

Man sent to jail for arson, other criminal offences


By Delon Shurtz on September 23, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A 26-year-old homeless man suffering from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and other mental health deficits, has received a nine-month jail sentence for several criminal offences, including arson.

Earlier this year, Stuward Sunchild, who was sentenced Friday in Lethbridge provincial court, set his bed on fire, and the flames quickly spread to the rest of his room located in a basement apartment.

“Flames ultimately consumed more or less the entirety of the room,” Crown Prosecutor Adam Zelmer explained.

Other residents in the building were evacuated and the fire department was called to extinguish the blaze, which caused about $100,000 in damage.

“The risk here, of course, was enormous if staff had not been on it and able to evacuate the building and pull the fire alarm,” Zelmer added. “The damage truly could have been catastrophic, not just from a property perspective but also from a public safety perspective.”

Sometime after the fire, Sunchild was with support workers and walking in a residential area on the city’s southside when he assaulted a woman. Sunchild began yelling at the woman, who was on her property, and began damaging her potted plants. He then approached the woman and punched her in the back several times while she was face down on the ground.

Zelmer pointed out that during the assault, the two careworkers did not try to help the woman. They later told police that work policy does not allow them to physically intervene.

“That was very upsetting (to the victim), as well, because she felt there were these two workers who were standing by and just watching it happen.”

In addition to the arson and assault, Sunchild also pleaded guilty to three counts of mischief. On July 16, 2020, Sunchild was in the office of a support services provider when he kicked a glass door several times, ultimately shattering the glass. The following day he kicked and damaged a door to a diversion outreach team van.

Then on Oct. 4 he was again at the service provider’s office, where he became angry and kicked several items and “wrecked” a TV after knocking it off a shelf.

Lethbridge lawyer Darcy Shurtz said Sunchild is generally kind, respectful and softspoken, and never intends to hurt anyone. His greatest challenge, however, is controlling his emotions.

“The issue he has is, that when he gets to a point when he’s not sure what to do, his emotions take over and he reacts without thinking, and those emotions somewhat control him,” Shurtz said.

He pointed out Sunchild, who is also bipolar and autistic, went off his medications after his psychiatrist died, which led to many of his offences, but he’s back on track and doing better.

In addition to his jail sentence, for which Sunchild was given credit for more than three months spent in pre-trial custody, he will also be on probation for 18 months. He must live in an approved residence, receive counseling for life skills, anger management and substance abuse, and he is prohibited from consuming non-prescribed drugs.

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