For many, the present is always more dangerous than the past and society is always going to hell. But as the Chilliwack Times' crime reporter, I'm here to tell you that isn't the case. Property crime is down, and Chilliwack hasn't been the site of a confirmed murder for more than two years (although the disappearance of at least one local person- Kelly Rideout-has been passed along to homicide investigators).
This year, I've again compiled a list of the 10 most interesting and revealing stories of the year from the RCMP blotter and the Chilliwack Law Courts. They've been chosen not necessarily because of their seriousness, but because of the stories behind those crimes. That said, another word of warning against drawing broader conclusions: while most crime is motivated or caused by drug and alcohol use, many of the crimes on this list have roots in greed or ignorance-which help make them stand out.
10 - The trial of Darryl Ness provided an inside peek into a massive Ryder Lake marijuana grow operation that was busted in 2009. It also showed the limits of the ol' playing-dumb defence. The judge didn't buy Ness's contention that he knew nothing about the underground bunker housing millions of dollars of pot plants. Still, Ness, who is 64 and had no criminal history, got off with house arrest. (And while we're on the topic, the number of grow-ops busted by police has radically declined over the past couple years. Mounties publicized the discovery of just a single grow op in Chilliwack in 2012.)
9 - No arrests have been made in a pair of big thefts, including $3 million stolen in September from the trunk a rented Mustang parked at Chilliwack Mall. And no charges have been laid in the June theft of four large wood crates containing more than $200,000 worth of antique china, stamps and family heirlooms.
8 - Speaking of getting away with it, Marc Colman was arrested and convicted of defrauding a pair of local charities of more than $40,000. But he never showed up to his sentencing hearing in October and, as of this writing, is still on the lam.
Colman's case revealed how susceptible charities are to those who take advantage of the trust afforded to volunteers.
7 - A 44-year-old Chilliwack man who was an "integral" part of a midlevel drug dealing operation was spared a 12-year jail term in one of the more serious cases to be heard at the law courts.
Thomas Borecky, who was caught in 2011 and found to have been in possession of bags containing pre-packaged drugs and several guns, was instead handed a five-year jail term for his various crimes.
At Borecky's sentencing hearing, Allan Soderstrom, who was never charged, said he and a man named "Dwayne" were the ringleaders of the drug operation and that Borecky was just a housesitter. The judge didn't buy the testimony, but still ruled that Borecky's three-and four-year sentences could be served concurrently. 6 - While justice may be slow, it did eventually catch up to those who brutally attacked a young Chilliwack woman in 2010. Vanessa Skerratt and Ashleigh Tschritter were both handed jail time for the violent robbery of Jessica MacBeth outside a Chilliwack bank.
They were both pregnant at the time of sentencing and due to give birth while still serving time.
MacBeth, who suffered a fractured skull and numerous other injuries in the attack, testified at Skerratt's sentencing and Tschritter's trial. Crown counsel Carolyn Kramer later raved about the 28-year-old woman's poise on the stand.
5 - The horrifying death of Lenami Godinez-Avila during a hang gliding accident brought a media circus to town after pilot William Orders swallowed a memory card with video of the fatal flight.
Orders was charged with obstruction of justice and held in custody until the card passed from his system. He later declared his intention to never fly a hang
glider again. An investigation by the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada said "pilot distraction" led to the neglect of important safety procedures.
4 - A Ryder Lake man who stabbed his wife, Susan Miller, to death on Boxing Day of 2009 will likely spend his final days in a secure hospital. David Miller suffers from Huntington's disease, a genetic disorder that causes the body and mind to steadily deteriorate and always ends in death.
Miller had been confined to hospital prior to the stabbing but had been issued day passes for Christmas and Boxing Day to visit his family. Fraser Health has never spoken publicly about the case.
3 - In 2003, Daniel Alphonse Paul was designated a long-term offender, after being convicted of a violent sexual assault. Crown counsel had been asking the court to designate him a dangerous offender, which carries an indefinite prison term. Instead, he was handed a four-year jail term.
Since his release, Paul has repeatedly breached the conditions of his release. He was sentenced for his latest transgression in September but will be back on the streets in 2013.
A judge said counselling has been ineffective, and the parole board said Paul's attitude has deteriorated. But having been designated a long-term offender with a chance for rehabilitation in 2003, Paul cannot be redesig-nated as a dangerous offender until he commits another violent crime.
2 - It turns out that there are no magic loopholes in Canadian law that allow a person to drive without a licence or avoid paying taxes.
Chilliwack's Russell Porisky was convicted of evading taxes and counselling others to do the same. He made more than a million dollars telling people that, if they declared themselves "natural persons," they didn't have to pay tax. He was wrong, numerous judges have ruled, and in May he was handed a long four-and-a-half-year jail sentence. Porisky is still appealing his case, but given the fact that-aside from one bail hearing-he's insisted on representing himself, his odds of winning seem long.
Speaking of long odds and self-representation, Douglas Baker appeared in Chilliwack court this fall to stand trial for driving while prohibited and obstruction of justice. He said that, as a "self-governing person," he had the right to travel freely.
Judge Roy Dickey will provide a verdict in January, but the exasperated judge
explained to Baker in court that driving is a privilege, not a right. 1 - We'll end on a brighter note: Chilliwack was home to its share of heroes in 2012.
Just last week there was the police officer who helped rescue a teenage driver from an overturned car. In November, there was Evan Raap, the seven-year-old boy who called 9-1-1 when his grandfather had a seizure while driving. Raap then showed a great sense of direction to describe his surroundings and the road the vehicle was parked on.
Chilliwack's Scott Watson, meanwhile, was praised for helping subdue a disturbed Skytrain rider after a B.C.
Lion's game in Vancouver.
And Cole Jackson was credited for yanking a senior out of the path of a speeding train after the man's scooter got stuck at the Young Road railroad crossing.
There were even multiple K-9 heroes: Jan Stroomer credited his old Chihuahua, Ben, for alerting him and his wife to a fire in their Unsworth Road mobile home. Ben died in the fire.
Meanwhile, Cargo, an RCMP police dog, was credited with helping find an ill senior who had wandered away from her home. Cargo died in December after a career spent guarding the Prime Minister, catching bank robbers and siring 20 litters of puppies.