South Okanagan man acquitted of assault with hammer

An Okanagan Falls man was acquitted of a slew of charges, including assault with a weapon, that were alleged to occur during a feud between families in 2012.

Michael Lillis was accused of striking a woman in the head then again in the hand with a ball peen hammer after attending a residence in Okanagan Falls on Sept. 14, 2012. The woman needed four staples in her head and her hand was broken in three places.

The confrontation started when Robert Delve alleged there was sexually inappropriate conduct between someone he knew and Okanagan Falls man Jessie Kochems, albeit the complaint was unfounded. He brought Lillis along to Kochems’ residence to back him up. Delve plead guilty to a single charge of assault with a weapon (a baton) and will be sentenced at a later date. Crown John Swanson said he expects to be asking for a six-month jail sentence.

Kochems took the stand during Lillis’ trial held at the Penticton courthouse on Wednesday. He testified he saw one friend get hit by Delve with the baton and that Lillis hit his mother with the ball peen hammer. Under cross-examination by defence counsel Don Skogstad, Kochems admitted he did not see either of the blows. Further hurting the Crown’s case was the fact the woman hit with the ball peen hammer, Kimberly Snow, could not identify Lillis, who was sitting in the courtroom gallery. Another witness involved in the fight pointed out a man sitting next to Lillis, who was not present during the incident, as the perpetrator.

“I sit here saying it probably was Lillis, but probably does not make proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Judge Gail Sinclair.

Sinclair agreed with defence counsel that Kochems’ testimony may have been clouded based on what other people involved later told him.

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