The shell of the 7-Eleven store next to the Trans-Canada Highway in downtown Salmon Arm remained before it was demolished after a fire destroyed it on Aug. 24, 2018. (File photo)

The shell of the 7-Eleven store next to the Trans-Canada Highway in downtown Salmon Arm remained before it was demolished after a fire destroyed it on Aug. 24, 2018. (File photo)

Man who set fire to car in Salmon Arm 7-Eleven apologizes to those affected

Court hears Kenneth LaForge was suffering from mental illness when he destroyed building

The man who started the fire that destroyed the Salmon Arm 7-Eleven store in August 2018 apologized to those affected.

Kenneth Robert LaForge, 39, appeared in Kamloops Supreme Court on July 14 where Justice Leonard Marchand heard sentencing submissions from Crown and defence lawyers.

On Aug. 24, 2018, LaForge drove a car into the front window of the convenience store before getting out, taking a can of gasoline out of his vehicle, pouring fuel on the car and setting it alight. The 7-Eleven was consequently destroyed.

LaForge was charged with mischief under $5,000, arson in relation to inhabited property and arson damaging property.

After the proceedings, defence lawyer Glenn Verdurmen said LaForge’s intention was not to harm anyone but to make a point about his situation. He was suffering from a mental illness and believed he was under investigation and the target of electronic surveillance. Verdurmen said LaForge attempted to check to see that no one was in the store before lighting the fire.

He said the onset of LaForge’s mental illness was about 15 years ago; there were times when he was treated and times when it was mixed with drug use.

At the time of the offence, mental health issues and drug use both played a role, Verdurmen said, adding that he had no previous run-ins with the justice system.

Read more: Man charged in Salmon Arm 7-Eleven fire granted bail

Read more: Man accused in 2018 fire that destroyed Salmon Arm 7-Eleven to stand trial

Read more: Man accused in Salmon Arm 7-Eleven fire sentenced for bail breach

The proceedings included victim impact statements as well as an opportunity for LaForge to address the court.

The court heard of the long-term and, for some, debilitating effects of the trauma that employees of the store suffered, not to mention losing their jobs and having to go to another town if they wanted to continue their work.

When LaForge spoke, Verdurmen said he gave a heartfelt apology both to the people working at the store as well as the people of Salmon Arm.

The court also heard about LaForge’s tumultuous upbringing that included a variety of hardships, with an early exposure to hard drugs.

He was bullied at school for being First Nations, at the same time as having no connection to the culture.

Verdurmen and Crown counsel Danika Heighes agreed on what they considered to be an appropriate sentence and made a joint submission. Because LaForge has served time in custody equivalent to more than two years, they suggested he be sentenced to time served – meaning he would not have to serve further time.

They suggested he also face stiff probation conditions including maintaining good psychiatric health, thereby keeping himself and others safe.

LaForge was granted bail as he awaits sentencing.

Now it is up to Justice Marchand to consider the joint submission and make his decision. No date has been set yet.


marthawickett@saobserver.net
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

ArsonCourt

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A town was constructed on the side of a mountain top in Hedley to extract 7.1 tonnes of gold. (Mascotmine.com photo)
Hedley’s Mascot Mine gets $800,000 lift from COVID relief program

Grant will enable the historic mine to open again for tourists

Pathways Addictions Centre is in jeopardy of closing after Interior Health has pulled all its funding and will be taking over addiction services ‘in house’ as up May 31. (Facebook)
Future of Penticton addictions centre in jeopardy after Interior Health pulls funding

Pathways has been in Penticton for over 20 years and has 10 staff, serving around 1,000 people

A man wearing a mask against coronavirus walks past an NHS advertisement about COVID-19 in London, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
92 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths: Interior Health

The region is reporting 92 cases after the weekend

Ponderosa Primary Care Centre in Penticton is considered a model for care clinics going forward by the South Okanagan Division of Family Practice. (Monique Tamminga)
Mayor of Oliver calls on province to address South Okanagan doctor shortage

‘None of the people in our acquaintance that we’ve come to know here in Oliver have their own doctor’

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has implemented extended hours at four landfills, beginning March 1, 2020. (Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen photo)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen extends landfill hours

Summer hours at four facility take effect March 1, 2021.

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

Vancouver and Victoria both have a MySafe machine to help reduce overdoses

Ice rescue on Shannon Lake. Phil McLachlan, Kelowna Capital News.
‘Ice season is over’; West Kelowna crews rescue man from icy lake

A man in his 60’s was pulled from the waters of Shannon Lake after falling through

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Dr. Amit Desai of St. Francis Hospital receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
B.C. has now vaccinated more people from COVID-19 than total confirmed cases

B.C. has reached a milestone, vaccinating roughly 1.6% of its population from the coronavirus

BC Housing has proposed that Victory Church shelter at 352 Winnipeg Street in Penticton be extended until March 31, 2022. It was originally intended to be a shelter April 1, 2021. (Jesse Day - Western News)
Concerned residents, business owners launch petition against Penticton homeless shelter

BC Housing wants to extend the ‘temporary’ Victory Church shelter for one year

Summerhill Pyramid Winery. (Contributed)
Fear of ‘hotel in a vineyard’ prompts Kelowna council to defer culinary school decision

City council needs assurance the educational facility proposed at Summerhill Winery will be used as stated

Most Read