The Crown is seeking a seven-year prison sentence for a homeless man who stabbed his friend in the neck at Paul’s Motor Inn three years ago.
Christopher John Parker, 40, was convicted in May of the aggravated assault of Ronald Oster on Nov. 13, 2020, at the Douglas Street inn. The property had been purchased by the province in May 2020 and converted to a housing facility with supports for vulnerable people.
Evidence recounted at Parker’s sentencing hearing Thursday gave an inside look at the facility, which is run by the PHS Community Services Society.
Crown prosecutor Jeni Gillings told the court that Oster, then 46, lived in suite 278. About six to seven weeks before the assault, Oster had allowed Parker and his girlfriend, Amanda Johnson, to stay with him. The two had friends in common, said Gillings. Oster allowed the couple to stay because Johnson had severe pneumonia.
At the time, Oster was a regular marijuana and meth user. According to Oster, Parker was a heavy fentanyl user, Gillings said.
It was against the rules to have overnight guests and because Oster did not want to lose his room, he told Parker and Johnson they had to leave. There was also tension between Oster and Parker because of a drug debt, said Gillings.
On Nov. 11, 2020, Parker threatened Oster by touching a knife to his cheek.
Two days later, Oster told the two again that they had to leave. He went out shopping and when he returned around 8:40 p.m., there was no one in the room.
It was messy and some items were missing. Oster assumed the two had left and taken their belongings, said Gillings.
Then Oster received a text from Parker saying Oster owed him $100 for drugs. Oster thought the debt was only $30. He told Parker to come by and pick up the money. He was hoping to buy more drugs from Parker.
While Oster waited for Parker to arrive, a girl named Cassandra knocked on the door. She said she was being chased and needed a place to hide, so Oster let her inside.
A short time later, there was another knock. Oster could hear Parker’s voice and he sounded impatient, said Gillings. But when he opened the door, there was no one there.
He saw the door to suite 277 was open so he asked the occupant, Rachel Reid, if someone had been knocking. She said Parker was there and wanted to speak to him.
Oster wanted to get Cassandra out of his room, so he asked Reid to stall Parker. He went back inside and heard another knock on the door.
Garbage on the floor made it difficult to open the door, so Oster turned and bent over to pick it up.
“The next thing he knew he felt a cold metallic object on the back of his neck. He said he felt like he was being electrocuted and he lost feeling from his neck downwards,” said Gillings. “While he was on the ground, Mr. Parker was leaning over him saying he’d had an accident and he was hurt and he would not do this because he was Mr. Oster’s best friend.”
Parker was grabbing Oster and trying to pull him up but Oster could not move and had difficulty breathing, Gillings said. Oster heard Johnson telling Parker to leave.
Staff and paramedics arrived and tried to keep Oster awake and control his breathing. He was taken to Victoria General Hospital, then due to the severity of his injuries, airlifted to the Spine Surgery Institute at Vancouver General Hospital.
Dr. Brian Kwon treated Oster for a sharp penetrating injury to his spinal cord.
Oster suffered extensive, long-term and debilitating injuries in the attack, including significant motor loss on the right side of his body, said Gillings.
“There is nothing surgical that can be done to help Mr. Oster,” she said.
He spent a month in Vancouver before returning to hospital in Victoria. He could not walk for two and a half years and had to use wheelchair. He is now able to walk for 20 minutes with a cane.
Oster wrote a lengthy and detailed victim impact statement, documenting how the injury has drastically changed his life and his daily activities.
“My mobility is by far one of my major issues, which is essentially my freedom … This will always be the largest battle of my life from here on until the day I die, the ability to walk,” he wrote.
Day-to-day chores like tying his shoelaces are now major tasks, he said, adding his right arm and hand are very clumsy.
The former musician has lost his ability to play guitar, which he studied for more than 18 years, and can no longer do activities he loved, including hiking, fishing, boating or camping, he said.
“My body is always sore, every waking moment,” wrote Oster.
Parker has a lengthy criminal history that includes 42 convictions for threats, weapons and violence, said Gillings, who called seven years an appropriate sentence for the unprovoked attack. She noted that Parker was on bail at the time of the offence.
Defence lawyer Neil Brooks, who is asking for a sentence of two years less a day, will continue his submissions Friday.
Justice Jan Brongers has indicated he will reserve his decision.