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Why a Trail man was convicted of manslaughter

This story contains violent details some readers may find disturbing.

A judge found a Trail man guilty of manslaughter rather than murder in the beating death of Harold Paddock because he couldn’t be sure of intent to kill.

BC Supreme Court Justice David Crossin’s ruling was handed down July 27 following a trial that ran over three stretches between February and May in Vancouver, but has only now been published online.

Joel Anderson’s sentencing hearing will be held Feb. 20-21. The maximum for manslaughter is life in prison, but there is no minimum and most sentences are 10 years or less.

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Early on Aug. 22, 2017, Paddock, 78, was making his way across Bay Avenue in Trail with a walker when Anderson, 25 at the time, suddenly attacked him. By his own admission, he punched Paddock in the shoulder, threw him to the ground, stomped on him, and kicked him in the head.

Paddock died in hospital 27 days later, never having regained consciousness. The court heard the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

Anderson was charged in January 2019 with second-degree murder.

Crossin said there was no debate that Anderson assaulted Paddock and the only question was whether he was guilty of murder or manslaughter.

A forensic psychologist who was asked whether Anderson was criminally responsible noted his statements were inconsistent. Dr. Johann Brink observed that sometimes Anderson said a voice in his head ordered him to do things, but offered alternate explanations at other times.

Brink said evidence supported Anderson’s diagnoses of drug abuse, bipolar disorder, and personality disorder, but added it’s difficult to distinguish drug-induced mania from delusions resulting from bipolar or schizoaffective disorder.

However, Brink suggested the account of hearing voices was more likely due to Anderson hallucinating while being high on drugs.

Crown counsel said evidence of mental illness or intoxication should be viewed with skepticism and should not cast doubt on a finding of murder. However, the defence said in an advanced state of intoxication or psychosis, Anderson couldn’t foresee the consequences of his actions, and therefore could not form the specific intent for murder.

The judge found Anderson was on crystal meth at the time of the crime and said he was skeptical of some of Anderson’s evidence about hallucinations or hearing voices. Crossin said he was reluctant to take at face value much of what Anderson stated, but not prepared to reject it outright.

Anderson testified that while suffering delusions, he intended to beat Paddock up but not to kill him, and didn’t think the injuries he inflicted would be fatal.

Crossin found Anderson neither a reliable witness nor self-serving, but rather “hopelessly inept in navigating the process.”

“While I remain highly troubled, the testimony of the accused has left me in a state of uncertainty,” Crossin said in convicting Anderson of the lesser-included offence of manslaughter.

Anderson testified on the morning of the attack, he broke into his father’s home and heard a voice telling him to burn it down and take random items to a water tower. He lit the home on fire and then walked downtown where he said the same voice told him to beat up Paddock. Video surveillance recorded the attack.

Anderson left Paddock in the middle of the street around 5 a.m. and walked to a gas station where he bought a coffee and spoke to his father’s friend. Ronald Coe testified that while Anderson seemed fidgety, he acted as if nothing had happened.

Anderson was arrested later that afternoon on a break and enter charge. Subsequently he was taken to hospital after punching the wall in his cell. An RCMP officer testified he became loud and angry at the hospital and threatened to shoot them.

Anderson told the court he was born in Trail, his mother was an abusive alcoholic, he and his brother were sexually abused as children, and he became addicted to drugs as a teenager and dropped out of high school.

The judge said Anderson had a sporadic employment and criminal record. He was jailed in January 2017 for assault, released in June and moved into his father’s home, but was asked to leave when he started using meth again. He moved into the Rex Hotel until he was evicted a day before attacking Paddock.

Crossin’s ruling also said Anderson was off his medication at the time.

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