A homeless man who stabbed his friend in the neck at Paul’s Motor Inn in Victoria three years ago has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison.
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 for vulnerable people.
On Friday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Jan Brongers found Parker’s attack on Oster was premeditated, unprovoked and without reason or justification. Parker attacked Oster with a weapon from behind, causing a sharp penetrating injury to his spinal cord.
“His quality of life was dramatically and permanently altered by this senseless act,” Brongers said.
The court heard that Oster, then 46, had allowed Parker and his girlfriend, Amanda Johnson, to stay with him at the housing facility because Johnson had severe pneumonia.
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, court heard. A couple of days before the stabbing, Parker threatened Oster by touching a knife to his cheek.
On Nov. 13, 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. Then Oster received a text from Parker saying Oster owed him $100 for drugs. Oster thought the debt was only $30 but he was willing to pay Parker $100 to settle the issue. He told Parker to come by and pick up the money. He was also hoping to buy more drugs from Parker.
Around 9 p.m., a neighbour told Oster that Parker was in his suite and wanted to see him. Oster asked the neighbour to stall Parker for a few minutes and returned to his room. Then he heard another knock on the door.
“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 fell to the floor,” Brongers said.
Oster saw Parker leaning over him and heard him whisper that Oster had had an accident and he would not do this because he was Oster’s best friend.
Parker grabbed Oster and tried to pull him up but Oster couldn’t move his arms and legs and had difficulty breathing. Parker fled.
Oster was taken to Victoria General Hospital and treated for a three-centimetre laceration on the back of his neck. Due to the severity of his injuries, he was airlifted to the Spine Surgery Institute at Vancouver General Hospital.
Oster suffered extensive, long-term and debilitating injuries in the attack, including significant motor loss on the right side of his body.
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 a 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.
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.
Oster still wonders why Parker did this to him.
“It was out of the kindness of my heart I allowed him and his girlfriend into my home because of his girlfriend being so sick with pneumonia, and not charging a stitch of rent. His funny way of thanking me was completely wrong and uncalled for and unprovoked and selfish. And the question of the hour that everyone wants to know is ‘Why?’ ” he wrote in his statement.
Brongers noted that Parker had an unstable childhood, living alternatively with his mother, father and foster parents. He left school in Grade 7 to get a job and has had alcohol and substance issues since his teenage years. He used heroin, fentanyl, morphine and crack cocaine and is now taking an opiate replacement to address his addiction.
The judge also considered Parker’s 42 previous convictions, including five for violent offences including weapons.
Brongers found the severity of the offence, the use of a weapon, the level of violence, the fact that Oster was unarmed and defenceless, and that the assault was unprovoked to be aggravating. Parker’s criminal history, the fact he was on bail at the time and fled without helping Oster is also aggravating, said the judge.
Brongers found Parker’s good behaviour on restrictive bail and the support he has from his girlfriend’s family to be mitigating. But he noted that Parker has not shown much remorse or much insight into the pain and suffering he inflicted on Oster.
Weighing all the aggravating and mitigating factors, the gravity of the offence and Parker’s degree of responsibility, Brongers found a fit and just sentence to be 4 1/2 years in prison.