Salmon Arm Law Courts (File photo)

Man drinks 26 beer on day of Shuswap home invasion

Accused pleads guilty, sentenced in BC Supreme Court in Salmon Arm to four years in jail

The man accused in what police described as a home invasion in Tappen last year pleaded guilty and was sentenced in BC Supreme Court in Salmon Arm Tuesday.

The court heard that on Sept. 4 last year, Dylan Thornton, 32, who had been working as a cook at a lodge near Lillooet, began drinking and broke into a locked area, stealing two guns – a .12 gauge shotgun and a 30.06 rifle. The guns were not loaded.

Thornton then stole a Chevrolet Silverado truck and began heading for Saskatchewan, with the intention of seeing his eight-year-old daughter.

The court heard he had trouble with the vehicle at some point so, about 9:30 p.m., he stopped at the Tappen Esso. There, armed with a shotgun while wearing a piece of clothing wrapped around his face, he kicked in the door to the owners’ residence. The owner managed to alert the RCMP.

Thornton pointed a shotgun at two women in the home and demanded their cell phones. He also demanded the keys to a Santa Fe and forced the residents to unpack his luggage from the Chevrolet and put it in that vehicle.

In their victim impact statements, the residents said it was a terrifying experience which has left them fearful.

Read more: Man charged in Tappen home invasion

Read more: Police investigating armed robbery of liquor store

Crown counsel Alison Buchanan told the court about Thornton’s driving upon leaving Tappen Esso, where he nearly struck one RCMP officer’s vehicle head on. He eventually abandoned the vehicle in a driveway, but police were able to locate him with the help of a police service dog. He did not comply with orders, and was bitten.

During an emotional statement to police, Thornton reportedly said he drank 26 beer throughout that day. He also said he started drinking when he was 11 and is an alcoholic.

His defence lawyer Tiffany Zanatta said he was sober leading up to the event, but had relapsed. She said he had never committed a violent crime and was sorry for the damage he caused. She said he had a short criminal record “and the majority of his convictions are for impaired driving.”

She outlined his history, which included playing WHL Hockey, taking trades courses such as pipe fitting, and being a train conductor. Zanatta says he wishes to play a significant role in his daughter’s life and phones her every weekend, even when in jail.

Read more: RCMP investigating armed robbery of Salmon Arm business

Read more: Police in Vernon catch suspects after armed robbery in Salmon Arm

In sentencing, Supreme Court Justice Sheri Ann Donegan agreed with a joint submission on sentencing from Crown and defence counsels.

On the charge of robbery with a firearm, described as one of the most serious offences in the Criminal Code, Thornton was given the low end of a range from four years to life. He must also provide a DNA sample and will be subject to a lifelong firearms ban.

For possessing a stolen truck, he was sentenced to 90 days and ordered to pay $600 to the woman who owned it. For possession of stolen weapons, he received 60 days.

Thornton pleaded guilty to three of six original charges; Crown counsel stayed the other three.

All three jail terms will be served at the same time, so Thornton was sentenced to a total of four years in jail, minus time served. He has been in prison since Sept. 4, so he receives credit at time-and-a-half, which equals 315 days. His sentence will be three years plus 50 days.

Justice Donegan said with all Thornton’s certifications and qualifications, he should be able to pursue a productive life. And she said he is obviously remorseful, as is evidenced by his guilty plea.

During the proceedings, Thornton, a heavyset man with closely shaved black hair and beard, sat quietly, choosing not to comment when the judge asked if he had anything to say. At the end she said, “Good luck, Mr. Thornton, I wish you well.” He didn’t speak but raised one eyebrow slightly as he was escorted out of the courtroom.


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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