A 19-year-old Penticton woman, who later died of an accidental overdose, told police she was introduced to injecting drugs by a repeat offender in the Penticton area.
Anthony Donavin Werden, 24, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 months jail time for possession of a stolen vehicle, two counts of obstructing a peace officer, breaking and entering, multiple breaches of probation and failure to appear in court as required relating to incidents in March.
Nelson Selamaj, Werden’s defence counsel objected to the teen’s statements about Werden introducing her to injecting drugs being allowed the sentencing proceedings.
“There’s no information leading from these allegations that the Crown is making. The witness is not here for me to interview her,” Selamaj said.
“Respectfully, there’s no information that comes from these allegations and that’s not why Mr. Werden is before the court,” Selamaj continued.
“It’s a pretty touchy subject,” Werden interjected via video from the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre.
“I know it is. I’ve been sitting here for 27-and-a-half years. I know what’s wheat and what’s chaff and I’m not sentencing you for anything that’s not in front of the court,” said Judge Gail Sinclair.
On March 26, 2015 police received reports of a suspicious occurrence on Roy Avenue and found Werden with the teen. Werden attempted to run away and when police caught up to him there was a five-minute struggle before he was eventually handcuffed.
Werden was released with a promise to appear in court, but failed to do so on April 1. The next day, six days after being released from custody, police received reports of a stolen vehicle. The Drug Task Force was simultaneously searching for Werden due to outstanding warrants. Werden was located at the home of a known associate where the stolen red 1990 Ford Ranger was found as well.
An officer pulled his vehicle up behind the Ford Ranger and found Werden and the teen to be inside. Werden put the truck into reverse and hit the police vehicle. The officer drew her gun and yelled at Werden telling him he was under arrest. Werden climbed over top of the teen and attempted to flee out of the passenger door.
After a chase involving multiple officers, Werden was once again arrested. Upon examination of the vehicle police located break-in equipment including bolt cutters and screwdrivers and found the ignition of the vehicle had been broken off.
Police also received reports earlier that day there had been damage to three vehicles in the parking lot of Total Restoration Services on Dawson Avenue. Surveillance footage obtained by police identified Werden on multiple cameras during the time that the damages, totalling $450, occurred.
Crown counsel Nashina Devji called Werden’s criminal record “absolutely atrocious” saying he has spent significant periods of time in jail and calling him a “well-rounded offender.”
Werden was convicted of theft under $5,000, assault and breach of probation. He was sentenced to time served in February. Devji said the teen met Werden after his release from custody.
“Up until that time, the police had no involvement with her,” Devji said.
Selamaj said the facts are not in dispute, but noted the pre-sentence report said that Werden had a “turbulent upbringing.” Selamaj also said that Werden has been in solitary confinement since his April 2 arrest. He cited reports from KRCC staff saying that Werden was placed in a separate unit because he had been assaulted by other inmates, and suffered a broken finger, but that his behaviour had improved.
Werden became emotional when given a chance to speak and said he doesn’t “want to die.”
“Ever since I got prescription medication from a doctor, I became a junkie. It happened so fast. My life is spiralling out of control. Prison is not helping me, you guys don’t seem to see that. I need help.”
“If her death doesn’t turn the light on for you nothing will,” Judge Sinclair said before giving Werden his sentence. “Here’s a young lady who was still, I think, a teenager, dies needlessly. If that doesn’t turn on the light, nothing will sir.”