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Guilty plea in home invasion

One of the men involved in a violent home invasion on Halloween night two years ago will be going to jail, the only question that remains is the length of his sentence.

Matthew Scott Stewart, 31, pleaded guilty earlier this week to break and enter and using an imitation firearm in the 2012 robbery.

In a joint submission put forth by Crown Counsel Patty O’Neil and Stewart’s defence lawyer Andrew Vandersluys, the pair asked for a sentence of three years in jail, to be followed by probation and a firearms prohibition.

It stated that Stewart and another man forced their way into a home on Belaire Avenue during the early morning hours of Nov 1.

One man was armed with a pistol and the other man carried a shotgun, although neither weapon was ever recovered, and prosecutors are unsure whether the weapons were real or imitation.

Amelie Normandeao was the only person home at the time. The court heard that she was a university student from out of province who was back in Kelowna to visit her boyfriend; he was not at home when the men forced themselves inside.

It’s alleged that Stewart lived on the same street, and was having a Halloween party earlier that night where alcohol and cocaine were present. A decision was made to break into a home nearby where it was believed a grow op was located.

When Normandeao answered a knock on the side door of her boyfriend’s house, the pair, who were unknown to her, barged in and pointed their weapons.

At the time of the home invasion, Normandeao was on the phone with her mother, and she told police the men ordered her to hang up the phone, get onto the ground, and then threatened to kill her.

The man holding the pistol, later identified by Normandeao in court as Matthew Stewart, searched the home while the other man held a shotgun to her head.

Stewart then returned and asked for the key to the basement. When Normandeao replied she didn’t know, he again threatened her.

That’s when Normandeao led them to the front door, where she had gotten a key stuck earlier in the day. While they attempted to extract the key, she ran down the street and hid in some bushes, only to see the pair of men come down the street and enter a home nearby.

After contacting police, and pointing out the home where the men ran, a police dog team was brought in who also tracked the suspects to the same address.

Kevin Graham was one of four people taken from the home, and later charged. But he could not be identified by Normandeao and those charges were later stayed. More information supplied later to the Crown cast doubt on some witnesses and their actual involvement in the matter, including information that suggested they colluded to falsely implicate Graham.

Stewart was finally arrested in Surrey a few months later. He has been in custody since that time.

A search of the suspect’s residence found rifles and ammunition, but none of the guns were used in the commission of the home invasion. In addition, no forensic evidence was ever found at the scene, nor was there a grow op in the basement.

The other witnesses at the house party were uncooperative with police by either failing to show up for court, retracting their evidence and feigning forgetfulness of the entire incident, which made Normandeao’s identification of Stewart the most crucial piece of the Crown’s case.

Her victim impact statement was also read in court, where she lists both emotional and financial hardships since the event, including lost wages and expensive counseling sessions.

In defence of his client, Vandersluys pointed out to the court that Stewart eventually pleaded guilty to some of the charges, and while he has a prior criminal record that includes three convictions, none of them were for violent crimes.

With credit for time served, both counsels have agreed on a suggested sentence of 14.5 months in jail.

Justice G. Weatherill is expected to make his decision in the next few days. 

-- This is a corrected copy from the original version.

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