June 18th, 2024

Man receives 30 days for unlawfully being in vacant house

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on January 7, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

It was cold in February 2020, and Renee Star Oka was looking for a warm place for he and his wife to stay when they found a vacant home in the 1200 block of 5A Avenue South.

The couple and another person entered the home, which the owners had purchased Feb. 18 but were not to take possession of until March 3. When the new owner drove by the residence on Feb. 25, he knew something was amiss when he saw numerous footprints in the snow leading to the house from the open gate in the backyard.

The man peered into a window, saw someone sleeping on the floor in one of the bedrooms then called police. When police arrived they found Oka and two women, and noticed the home had been trashed.

“Police noted a foul stench,” Crown Prosecutor Kristi Adams pointed out Friday in Lethbridge provincial court, where Oka pleaded guilty to one count of unlawfully being in a house. “There was urine and feces, there was garbage…and drug paraphernalia strewn about.”

Lethbridge lawyer Miranda Hlady told court Oka was homeless at the time and he and his wife were trying to stay warm.

“He is aware that as there was no water running into the home that their presence thoroughly caused a number of difficulties,” Hlady said.

She told court her client had a difficult childhood growing up, and his parents and grandparents attended residential schools. He left his parents home when he was a teenager and moved to Lethbridge, where he struggled with homelessness before he returned home when he was 18.

“He sort of struggles between homelessness, residing with his partner and her family, as well as returning to the reserve at this point in time.”

Hlady noted Oka’s wife was also charged in relation to the incident, and she is wanted on an outstanding warrant.

Judge Erin Olsen acknowledged Oka was only in the house to stay warm, but she chastised him for the mess he and others made.

“You simply made a mess of the house by using open areas presumably, in addition to the bathroom, as toilet facilities, and you had left garbage and needles all around. So it’s just disgusting and it leaves a terrible mess for the owners to deal with.”

“I’m sorry for being at that house,” Oka told court moments before he was sentenced to 30 days in jail. He was, however, given credit for 30 days spent in remand custody, which completes his sentence.

Oka will remain in custody on additional charges, including assault with a weapon, possession of stolen property, and fraud. He returns to court on those matters Jan. 30.

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Break and Enter to a Dwelling House is punishable by up to life imprisonment. The economic cost to an innocent homeowner of repairing the damage caused here undoubtedly would run into the thousands, let alone the stress of knowing your “new” home was used as a toilet by drug addicted creatures more animal than human. The contribution of the offender towards ” reconciliation ” of the damage caused? : ” I’m sorry….” !
Thirty days for this discounted at 2 for 1 – is there any surprise respect for the judicial system rests somewhere below the dirt on which the bottom of the barrel sits.