Warning: Graphic content in this article.
A man is expected to go to prison for at least two years, and as many as four, after he sexually assaulted his two stepdaughters repeatedly over several months in 2016.
The sexual assaults were reportedly so frequent one of the girls set up a booby trap that would shoot a Nerf gun at intruders in her room if tripped.
The man pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault for several incidents between summer 2016 and late that year. Four charges of sexual interference with a minor under 16 were stayed. Sentencing proceedings began in the Penticton court house on Friday.
A mandatory publication ban on anything that can identify the victims bars naming the defendant in this case, due to his relationship with the two girls, aged nine and 12 at the time of the assaults.
The issue came to light when the older of the girls wrote letters to her stepfather and mother late fall last year, telling the stepfather she was going to come forward to a counsellor at school about the issue and informing her mother about what was happening.
The principal of a Penticton school called police when the man went to the school the day she penned the letters, looking for his stepdaughter, but was declined access to the girl. He spoke of his own suicidal inclination and left the school.
His vehicle was later found driving on Skaha Lake Road — according to defence lawyer James Pennington, on his way to the police detachment to turn himself in — and he was pulled over.
The man was taken to hospital, and detained under the Mental Health Act in Penticton’s psychiatric ward, and police took statements from the two girls. Both girls spoke to an extensive list of sexual acts he had pushed on them, including touching and oral sex while one of the girls slept. Both girls said he had climbed into bed with them at times, touching them sexually and forcing them to touch him sexually as well. The younger girl told police she would roll onto her belly to avoid him, but he would flip her onto her back.
That reportedly went on from early summer 2016 until November last year when the older girl reported the issue.
Charges were sworn against the man on Nov. 30 last year, and he entered a guilty plea in February this year, which Crown lawyer Ann Lerchs said was a “very early” plea.
Pennington noted the man had felt very remorseful for his actions and wanted to be put in prison, but also wanted to receive help in the form of counselling.
In court, the family appeared strong, quietly supporting one another through the sentencing hearing, though some members stepped out of the courtroom during the Crown’s reading of the man’s litany of assaults.
Victim impact statements, submitted in written form, revealed the damage the man’s actions had done to the family, with snippets read aloud.
“She discusses having to move towns into a new home and losing most of her friends from Penticton as a result of the move,” Lerchs said of the older girl’s statement. “She says, ‘to sum it up, I gave up on life, school and basically everything. I cut myself off from family, friends and the people I love.’”
The older girl reported difficulties going to sleep and discomfort when touched or when people whisper into her ear.
“He hurt me, my trust, my bond with him and my love with him,” wrote the younger girl. “I can’t control my feelings. I’m sad, confused, angry, lost.”
The man had reportedly begun taking testosterone shots to improve his sex drive with his wife prior to the assaults beginning. That had been noted in pre-sentence and psychiatric reports prepared for the sentencing hearing, with the man appearing to allot some causality to the shots, but Judge Michelle Daneliuk said she had difficulties with that issue, because of a lack of medical expertise speaking on the effects of the testosterone.
Lerchs said the Crown’s position on an offence like the one facing the court would typically be two to four years for an assault on one victim. Because of the fact that there were two victims, that the assaults went further than touching and taking into account the early guilty plea and remorse from the man, Lerchs sought four years imprisonment.
Pennington, on the other hand, noted specifically the man had expressed remorse and wanted to get better. He said the man wanted to do some time in federal prison, adding that counselling programs in provincial jails are inferior to that of federal prisons.
Pennington said he found two years to be suitable in jail, with another three years on probation following and a mandate to adhere to counselling.
Daneliuk said she would not be able to make a decision on the sentencing Friday.