Barrie teen receives five months open custody after terrorizing elderly woman
Jean Knox, shown here in her Barrie home, which was ransacked in late December, says one of the teens who pleaded guilty to the crime should “be dealt with quickly, completely, understandingly.” The teen apologized to her in the courtroom, but Knox said she believed it was a “packaged apology.” TRACY MCLAUGHLIN/PHOTO
Calling the behaviour "cruel, callous" and "shocking," a judge sentenced a teen who broke into a Barrie senior's home and poured maple syrup all over her as she lay in her bed to five months of open custody.
The teen, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was 16 when he and his buddy smashed a widow with a shovel and broke into the home of Jean Knox, now 98, in the middle of the night Dec. 29, 2016.
He pleaded guilty to break-and-enter, assault and mischief.
Along with five months of open custody - generally served in a supervised group home for youths - the teen received two years' probation.
Court heard he is a "high risk" to re-offend.
Court heard how the woman, who lives alone and is crippled from polio, was too terrified to press her alert bracelet and pretended to sleep while the teens poured syrup all over her, rifled through every drawer and smeared ketchup, syrup, cooking oil and peanut butter on the walls and ceilings of every room of her home.
"I was scared," said Knox, who is paralyzed from the waist down after being stricken with polio 64 years ago. "I couldn't call for help. I couldn't do anything, so I pretended to be asleep."
And as she lay there, the teens poured maple syrup all over her body, her hair, her bedding, her carpets. In silent horror, she thought the sticky mess being poured on her was blood.
They rifled through every drawer.
"But I had nothing for them to take,” she said.
They smeared ketchup, cooking oil, peanut butter and syrup over the floors, walls and ceiling of every room.
Later, they snickered and bragged to their friends.
Sitting in her wheelchair in the home that she and her late husband built together in the 1950s, Knox talks about that frightful, degrading, demoralizing night.
Her mind is sharp, her eyes show the wisdom within, but she cannot hear so she carefully considers questions written on a white-board before she answers.
"I feel bitter," she said, a flash of anger in her hazel eyes. "Maybe these boys thought it was a joke.
“But this was no joke,” Knox added. “It was devastating."
Elderly people have a right to live in the comfort of their homes without being in fear, she says.
"There is a new crime that is becoming more and more popular - it's called home invasion, and it affects us all,” Knox said. “Something has to be done."
Quietly fussing about the kitchen, Knox's personal support worker, Victoria, shakes her head in anger.
"I can't imagine what she went through that night," Victoria said.
It was her co-worker who found the traumatized woman early in the morning in the vandalized home - which cost $20,000 to clean, paint and repair.
The worker slipped and injured herself in a puddle of cooking oil on the bathroom floor.
"You know it's people like Jean who are my favourite clients," Victoria said. "They ask for nothing; all they want is the right to live in their own homes. They deserve to have that."
In court last week, one of the teens who pleaded guilty to assault, break-and-enter, and mischief, stood and apologized to the elderly lady.
"I wasn't thinking that night," he said, wiping tears. "I was struggling a lot with life … I've lost all my friends … if there's anything I can do, I will."
Reflecting on the youth's words, Knox says she was not impressed.
"I had the feeling he was delivering a sort of packaged apology … something that had been prepared for him," she said.
Knox believes youth should be dealt with using a firm but caring hand.
And as a former elementary school teacher, she knows a little about discipline.
"It must be dealt with quickly, completely, understandingly," she said.
But hope for the teen remains large in her heart.
"I do not condone what he did, but can we not build something good out of this?" she asked. "This boy can do some good by speaking to other young people who have troubles."
If she could sit with the teen, she says she would say to him: "Someday, you will grow to be a grandfather and have a grandson … what would you tell him about your youth? What would you say to him about that night?"