Chilliwack 'hillbilly feud' hits the courts

 - Stroy Photo
— image credit: Stroy Photo

A B.C. Provincial Court judge has imposed a $1,000 peace bond on a 60-year-old Chilliwack woman to try to break up what he described as a Hatfield-McCoy-style "hillbilly feud" in Ryder Lake.

Lynn Lutz was charged with assault with a weapon last spring, after she hit Mike Maskall, a friend of her neighbours, on the head with a spray-paint can during an altercation between her, her husband Dave Lutz and Maskall near the Lutzes' Wincott Road home.

On Friday, Judge Richard Miller found her not guilty of the charge, saying the evidence did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she had not acted in self-defence.

He also concluded, however, that both Lutz and her husband had told "bald-faced lies" in court last week about their animosity towards their neighbours, the Baineses.

During the three-day trial, the court heard how the two families had feuded over a shared driveway for the last 10 years, with the Lutzes claiming the Baineses and their friends sped past their house and endangered them and their dogs, and the Baineses claiming the Lutzes infringed on the easement with their debris to the point that some of their vehicles couldn't get through.

The families also conflicted over their dogs, with the Lutzes saying Baines dogs had mauled their dogs on several occasions, including a Yorkie two years ago that had died after being mauled by a shepherd cross owned by the Baineses.

"This case involves neighbours of the worst sort," said Miller, chastising both the Lutzes and the Baineses in his ruling Friday.

Two visual manifestations of the neighbours' animus were a red and white sign on the Lutz property that read "assholes neighbour" and four gloves arranged on poles with their middle fingers sticking up.

The Lutzes called these displays "garden art," with Dave Lutz telling the court they were intended to "look cute."

The feud between the two families boiled over on March 23, 2013.

That morning, the Baines family (with RCMP on hand to ensure peace and good order) removed a number of items, including cinder blocks and landscape ties, from a part of the driveway near the Lutzes' property.

The Lutzes had been away from home, but when they returned and found the items missing, both testified they had been "upset" and knocked on the Baineses' door.

When no one answered, they returned home, changed clothes and went back outside to measure and spray-paint the borders of the contentious driveway.

At that point they said they heard a pickup truck accelerating up the driveway.

Dave Lutz said he stepped in front of the vehicle to protect his dog, which he said had been in the middle of the driveway in danger of being hit.

The truck skidded to a stop, Dave Lutz said, and the driver yelled, "What the f---are you doing, Dave?" A physical altercation ensued

Lutz said, which eventually saw Dave Lutz and Maskall topple over an embankment with Maskall on top.

Lynn Lutz said she had tried to come to her husband's aid, but that Maskall had thrown her down the embankment.

She had scrambled back up and jumped on his back, but he had grabbed her by the neck, she said, and began choking her while holding down her husband.

"At this point I was very very afraid for my life," she said. "... women's self defence taught me, go for the jewels, and that's exactly what I tried to do, but I didn't make it. .. I couldn't get my hand up there with enough of a swing. His jeans were too tight."

Lutz said she then reached for the paint can and hit Maskall twice in the head, leaving a gash in his scalp that required six stitches to close.

The altercation ended when Maskall's son, Kyle, and his friend Brandon Baines arrived and began recording the scene on a cellphone, which Lynn Lutz unsuccessfully tried to grab.

While Miller found the evidence didn't prove Lutz had not acted in self defence, he also concluded the Lutzes had been the initial aggressors in the altercation.

He found Dave Lutz was "not telling the truth" when he testified that he had stepped in front of Maskall's truck to save his dog.

He said Dave Lutz had, in fact, stepped in front of the vehicle to confront Maskall.

Miller was particularly scathing about the couple's description of the "assholes neighbour" sign and the gloves with the extended middle fingers as "garden art," since, he said, they were clearly meant to "insult and provoke" the Baineses.

"Those bald-faced lies tell me a lot about the character of these people," Miller said.

The two-year, $1,000 common law peace bond imposed by Miller requires Lutz to stay away from the Baineses and their property.

But when Crown counsel Anna Tosso (after being approached in court by Cecile Baines) requested the "assholes neighbour" sign and gloves be taken down as part of the peace bond, Miller said no.

"If they want to continue that behaviour, somebody else will see them some day," he said.

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