Less than six years after he was sentenced for fatally stabbing a complete stranger on a Kelowna bus, Tyler Newton was sentenced once again Thursday for a handful of convictions from the past year.
The 31-year-old was arrested in July 2021 after fleeing from police in a vehicle in West Kelowna, and after he was released from custody, he was arrested again in January when police found him with a stolen vehicle and drug paraphernalia in West Kelowna.
Back in June 2016, Newton was handed a seven-year jail sentence after he struck a plea deal with the Crown and pleaded guilty to manslaughter for the unprovoked stabbing of 55-year-old Caesar Rosales on the No. 8 bus near the Dilworth Shopping Centre on the evening of Oct. 30, 2014.
Rosales and Newton had never met before that evening. Newton had suffered from “significant addiction for much of his life,” according to defence lawyer Tiffany Zanatta, and he was in a drug-induced psychosis during the attack.
With enhanced credit for presentence credit, Newton served an additional 4.5 years, and was released from custody in December 2020.
During his sentencing hearing Thursday, Zanatta said Newton began using opioids again some time after his release from jail. He crushed his leg in a dirt bike accident in June of last year, and he was prescribed painkillers.
“He fell back into those bad habits again,” Zanatta said.
On the evening of July 21 of last year, an RCMP officer who was familiar with Newton's history saw him driving on West Kelowna's Old Okanagan Highway, with no front licence plate and a smashed windshield. When the officer attempted to pull Newton over, he sped off into a mobile home complex at a “high rate of speed.” Police eventually found Newton, boxed in his vehicle and arrested him.
Newton was charged with flight from police and dangerous operation of a vehicle. But despite his long criminal history, 50 criminal convictions, Newton spent five days in custody before he was released on conditions, which included not being in the driver's seat of a vehicle.
Six months later, on the morning of Jan. 18, 2022, an officer noticed a white Ford F-350 at a Shell gas station in West Kelowna with some damage, and upon closer inspection, the officer found the truck's licence plate was not registered to the vehicle. The officer noted the truck's vehicle identification number had been scraped off, the ignition appeared tampered with, and drug paraphernalia like tinfoil, pipes and needles littered the inside of it.
The officer arrested Newton and the two others he was with inside the gas station, and surveillance footage showed Newton had been in the driver's seat. The truck had previously been reported stolen.
Newton was charged with breaching his release order and possession of stolen property. He's remained in custody ever since.
During his appearance in court Thursday, Newton pleaded guilty to all four charges he faced, and Judge Clarke Burnett ultimately sentenced him to nine months in jail. With 86 days of enhanced presentence credit, he has a little more than six months left to serve.
Defence counsel Zanatta said Newton has continued to struggle with addiction issues since his release on the manslaughter charge, but she wouldn't concede he was under the influence of drugs during the two incidents.
Crown prosecutor Jessica Saris tried to argue that because Newton's killing of Rosales in 2014 was a direct result of his drug use, his recent drug use should be considered an aggravating factor in his sentencing, as it “puts the public at risk of further offences of extreme violence.”
She noted that during his sentencing in 2016, Justice Heather Holmes told Newton he owed it to the Rosales family to get clean.
“It is also important that Mr. Newton specifically understand that his priority now is to make sure that his drug addiction never takes hold again,” Justice Holmes said in 2016. “He must understand that he could never risk intoxicating himself by drugs, and therefore placing other people so seriously at risk as he did during this period when he committed this offence.”
But Judge Burnett noted there was no convincing evidence Newton had been using drugs when he committed the offences. While drug paraphernalia was found in the stolen truck in January, three people had been inside it, so Judge Burnett said he could not conclude Newton had been using drugs. As such, Saris abandoned her argument about that particular aggravating factor.
Despite this, Judge Burnett handed Newton a sentence of just one month less than the 10 months Saris had sought. Zanatta, meanwhile, had argued for a five-month sentence, minus his time served. Both the Crown, defence and Judge Burnett agreed on two years of probation following his release, that will likely include drug counselling requirements, if ordered by his probation officer.
Newton is back on a Suboxone program in jail, and Zanatta said he was committed to seeking help to maintain his sobriety. But he's consistently struggled in the past.
While serving his sentence for the killing of Rosales, he was released from custody on statutory release on two separate occasions in 2019 and 2020, but his release was revoked both times for using drugs.
While the Parole Board called his criminal history “appalling” and his previous community supervision history “abysmal,” he was released to a rooming house in June 2019. But he tested positive for methamphetamine just two days later and his release was revoked.
Then, in June 2020, he was released to a halfway house, but that release was revoked the following month for again testing positive for methamphetamine.
Ultimately, his sentence expired in December 2020 and he was freed from custody.
The horrific, unprovoked stabbing of Rosales on the city bus shocked the community in 2014, and Newton's seven-year jail sentence was widely condemned by the public. Of the nearly 8,700 respondents to a Castanet poll at the time, more than 96% said his sentence was not appropriate, while 53% said he should spend life in prison. Member of Parliament Dan Albas called the sentence a “slap in the face."
Rosales brother, Darwin Rosales, was skeptical that Newton was in a state of psychosis during the attack, and said that while Newton “just wanted to get his life back, my brother cannot be put back to life.”