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St. Albert man who repeatedly stabbed child found guilty of aggravated assault

Evidence is more suggestive of a “spontaneous and frenzied episode,” says justice
Edmonton Law Courts building via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0 Deed:

A Court of King’s bench justice has found a St. Albert man who repeatedly stabbed his toddler-aged son guilty of aggravated assault

The man was originally facing charges of attempted murder but Justice Eleanor Funk found the man, who the Gazette cannot name due to a publication ban, guilty of the lesser charge of aggravated assault. 

Starting Monday, Crown prosecutors called six witnesses: three family members of the victim, two police officers and a first responder.

The defendant’s parents, whose names are also covered by the publication ban, were in the home at the time of the stabbing.

The defendant’s mother heard screaming and crying on the morning of Oct. 10, 2021 and went to the child’s bedroom, where she found the child in a closet, covered in blood with his father nearby.

She rushed the child out of the room and called an ambulance, while the defendant’s father came upstairs and restrained the defendant. The defendant’s father also found a knife on the floor of the bedroom.

Court heard that the child was stabbed 20-30 times in the chest, arm and back with a curved knife that had a six-inch blade.

All of the family members who testified noted that the man’s demeanour had changed in the weeks preceding the incident — he had been crying frequently and had a reduced appetite.

A paramedic who attended the scene said the child had been stabbed in the cardiac box, an area in the centre of the chest that is extremely dangerous to puncture because of the major blood vessels that rest underneath the tissue. The child suffered from a collapsed lung.

Court heard closing arguments Wednesday morning.

Attempted murder applies to violent actions that are virtually certain to result in death, regardless of whether killing was or was not the ultimate purpose of the act, or if the perpetrator regrets their actions, said prosecutor Crystal Robertson in the Crown’s closing arguments.

Stabbing the child multiple times in particularly vulnerable areas of the chest and back indicated the defendant’s willingness to kill the victim, Robertson said, as did the brief length of time it took the defendant to stab the victim repeatedly (approximately four minutes).

The defendant’s actions were deliberate, Robertson argued, because he armed himself with the knife from the kitchen, brought it upstairs, and then called the child upstairs.

The stabbings weren’t random, she said. They were concentrated on the left side of the body, near the cardiac box.

Defence lawyer Gary Smith argued that there were no witnesses to the incident in the bedroom, suggesting that the child’s wounds may have been self-inflicted.

Regardless, Smith said, life-threatening wounds alone are not evidence of intent to kill. Often utterances, such as verbal threats to murder someone, are used as evidence for an attempted murder conviction, but there was no evidence of such utterances in this case.

The child’s wounds were “quite superficial,” he said, and the child spent only four days in hospital.  There were no lasting or life-threatening injuries, casting doubt about whether the defendant intended to kill or just injure the child.

“The mere fact that a person bungles the offence doesn’t mean that offence of attempted murder is incomplete,” said prosecutor Scott Pittman. “Whatever higher power you believe in, it is only by the grace of god this child did not die or suffer significant injuries.”

Justice Funk found it “wholly unreasonable” that the child’s wounds were self-inflicted, as the child seemed “normal and healthy.”

However, she couldn’t agree that the defendant armed himself with the knife and saw no evidence that he brought it upstairs. There was also no evidence that, leading to the event, the defendant had said anything that indicated he intended to murder the child.

“I find this evidence is more suggestive of a spontaneous and frenzied episode,” she said, pointing to his crying outbursts and testimony of his demeanour change.

The man's behaviour indicated he had "unmanaged mental health issues," she said.

“It is a stroke of luck we are not assembled here for a murder or manslaughter trial."

Funk ordered a pre-sentence report. The man’s sentencing will be at a later date this year.

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