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Westbank Lions hall arsonist gets 3 1/2 years

Kerry Robert Cooper admitted to burning the Westbank Lions Community Hall last September. - Capital News File Photo
Kerry Robert Cooper admitted to burning the Westbank Lions Community Hall last September.
— image credit: Capital News File Photo

Kerry Robert Cooper will spend a little more than three years of additional time in jail for burning down the Westbank Lions Community Hall.

The crime put at-risk youth from the Central Okanagan School District's Storefront Program out of a classroom, causing some to drop out of school altogether, and hit a string of charities working out of the hall in the pocketbook, preventing the community from accessing their services for a time.

"If you wanted to hurt West Kelowna, this is the building you would target," said Crown counsel David Grabavac.

Ostensibly burned in an impulsive fit of rage, Judge Anne Wallace told Cooper she saw a high degree of premeditation in his decision to burn down the hall, a plan he hatched in order to ruin the wedding of his common-law wife's friend, Amanda Nevdoff.

The court previously heard Cooper believed Nevdoff was trying to break up his relationship and he had grown angry about her wedding, in which his partner was a bridesmaid.

The Nevdoffs were to enjoy a reception in the hall on the afternoon of Sept. 1, 2013.

Cooper admitted to driving his girlfriend's Jeep to the hall, and setting the building on fire, using gasoline purchased that morning, and his shirt; although he contends he never intended to burn the entire building down.

Damages are estimated close to $1.5 million.

The bride, Cooper and his spouse, and the bride's parents were all well known to one another, living within close proximity in a West Kelowna trailer park.

Wallace noted the defendants quick admission of guilt and voracious insistence he would like to simply find out his punishment—including waving his right to counsel—was extremely unusual. She counted it in his favour, though noted his lack of remorse over destroying the Nevdoffs wedding was disturbing.

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