Robbery spree brings two-year jail sentence

Cocaine-addicted man pleads guilty to string of purse snatchings in Penticton downtown

A cocaine-addicted man who snatched purses and money from three Penticton seniors said he heard voices in his head at the time of the incidents.

Jordan Keller, 31, pled guilty to three counts of robbery and one attempted robbery in a spree that lasted four days in June. He was sentenced by Judge Gale Sinclair to two years less a day and the maximum of three years of probation on Monday at the Penticton provincial courthouse.

“At the time I was hearing voices, the problem was I didn’t know which way to turn. I was having trouble keeping a level head,” said Keller, who appeared via video.

Keller told police he committed the robberies because he was desperate for drugs and cigarettes. The 31-year-old was also diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic in his late 20s, and Keller’s defence lawyer argued that both of these were factors in the robberies. Crown counsel asked for a five- to seven-year federal term to get Keller’s drug issues solved and mental health issues sorted out.

“The offences do not appear to be motivated by a mental health situation, they were motivated by cocaine,” said Crown counsel Susan Greba. “All of these are red flags for bad things down the road if these are not taken care of.”

On June 12 at 6:30 p.m. an 88-year-old woman was approached in the 200 block of Main Street by Keller, who asked her for change. When she replied she had none, Keller knocked her to the ground and struggled with her until he eventually was able to flee with her purse. Greba said the 88-year-old told RCMP that she held onto it as long as she could and “gave her all, but she was not strong enough.” The purse contained about $50 in cash and the woman received a scraped knee and wrist.

Two days later, Keller followed a 64-year-old woman into the Bank of Nova Scotia around 10:30 p.m. attempting to grab her purse after she took $200 out of the ATM. Greba said the woman pleaded with Keller that it was the only money she had, but still he took the purse.

On June 15 Keller shoved a 46-year-old woman to the ground around 8:30 a.m. However, the woman fell to the ground on top of her purse, leaving him empty-handed. It was during this incident where a witness, Keller’s aunt, was driving downtown and “heard a blood-curdling scream.” She spotted her nephew and called RCMP.

Within the hour, Keller attacked a 44-year-old man outside the Money Mart who had $5,000 in an envelope. Greba said Keller attempted to grab the envelope, which ripped open in the tussle leaking money out onto the ground. The man fell to the ground yelling for help and an employee of the Penticton Western News, who was passing by, saw Keller stuffing money into his pocket. He grabbed Keller and restrained him while other witnesses tracked down police.

Defence lawyer James Pennington argued that his client should serve a provincial term of two years less a day, the maximum three years of probation and be put on a Rogers Order which would require him to maintain his medication.

Pennington pointed out Keller was aware he was on a “downward spiral” and recognized he needed help. The defence lawyer said mental health services failed his client and the psychiatrist prescribed him a new medication clonazepam that was nine times the dosage anyone should be on. When Keller finally got a new doctor that the family trusted he had to be weened off the drug before being put on something else. It was during this time he became addicted to crack cocaine.

Keller read an apology letter to the court on Monday, addressing the victims and stating he hopes they do not feel scared to go out anymore. He also offered to pay for the glasses that were broken in the Money Mart scuffle and previously told RCMP where he stashed the purses.

Judge Sinclair said, for lack of better words, “tie this man up and have him under supervision for the longest time” as he grappled with the idea of sending him to provincial or federal prison. Sinclair said if he goes the federal route it would be around a four-year range, while the provincial option offered Keller more time under supervision.

“Recognizing the mental health issues and drug addiction, this is the best as he will be under supervision for five years. I want him under supervision getting help. I hope I am right on this,” said Sinclair.