‘Good Samaritan’s nightmare’: Hamilton man not criminally responsible for death of Niagara winery owner

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Published January 9, 2024 at 7:32 pm

The Hamilton man who killed a well-known Niagara winemaker has been found not criminally responsible for the death due to schizophrenia.

In what Justice Michael Bordin called “the good Samaritan’s nightmare” winemaker Paul Pender opened his cottage door to a stranger around 8 p.m. on Feb. 3, 2022. Minutes later, he died bleeding in the snow suffering multiple stab wounds.

His killer, Bradley House, was working on renovating a nearby Selkirk home for the past six months, according to the agreed statement of facts. House was addicted to cocaine and oxycodone and regularly took these drugs before going to work. The week before Feb. 3, House had not shown up to work but returned that morning. It’s unknown how much cocaine and Percocet House took that day. He also drank two alcoholic hard ice teas.

House’s co-worker, Darren “Tommy” Thomas and the homeowner didn’t mind his drug consumption as long as the work was done. Both report House’s personality did not change while high and that Feb. 3 was a normal work day, until House’s dramatic exit.

Thomas testified House began to complain of back and neck pain on Feb. 3. After Thomas unsuccessfully tried to crack House’s back, he tried to massage the sore area. Suddenly, House wheeled an punch Thoams twice in the face. He then ran from the house, jumped a fence and took off down the road.

He kept running until he came upon the Pender cottage about 1.5 kilometres away down Lakeshore Rd. However, Bordin notes, the route House took is unknown. During House’s run, it began to snow heavily. Visibility was poor, roads were snow-covered and it was freezing outside.

Pender, his partner Allison Findlay and her father Ron Findlay stayed at the cottage. They were sitting at the dinner table when House arrived. House was bleeding from the head and mouth. He was not wearing a coat. Allison Findlay told the court he was “f*cked.” “You could tell right away something was wrong,” she said

“He appeared disoriented, distressed, in shock, and in pain and kept saying there was a stick stuck in his head when in fact there was no stick,” Bordin wrote. Pender tried to tell House there was no stick, but House kept screaming for the stick’s removal.

While Allison Findlay called 911 to get help for House, her father observed Pender pretend to remove the stick with a pair of pliers. There was a sudden scuffle in the kitchen and House grabbed an eight-inch kitchen knife. He used the blade to dig at his ear trying to remove the non-existent stick.

Pender tried to help but House swung the knife at him. At this point, Pender ran from the cottage. House pursued him, still holding the knife. Allison Findlay followed behind and tried to stop House with a broom. Findlay started screaming prompting neighbours to come outside and call 911 themselves.

House chased Pender down the road to a neighbouring cottage. This neighbour answered the door to find Pender slumped and House walking away with the knife in hand. She described House’s face as “twisted” saying “It looked like he had a mask or something on.”

The pair continued to struggle and fell to the ground in the neighbour’s driveway. When Findlay caught up, she found Pender lying on top of House, who was still stabbing Pender. She and a neighbour pushed Pender off House and restrained the attacker. She was able to wrest the knife, now bent, from House and throw it into a snowbank.

Findlay and the neighbour continued to hold House until police arrived. During this time, he continued to struggle, thrashing his feet around. He was talking saying he was hot and wanted to go home. Findlay and her neighbours all agreed he wasn’t making much sense. While on the phone with 911, Findlay was performing guided CPR on Pender. In the recording of the 911 call, House can be heard in the background yelling that he wanted to help.

The OPP arrived at 8:36 p.m. about 10-15 minutes after House arrived at the cottage. Paramedics soon followed and kept trying CPR, but Pender succumbed to his wounds and died on the scene. An autopsy found Pender suffered three major stab wounds, each of which could have proven fatal on their own.

Police took House into custody. He was unresponsive to questioning. As the officer led him to the cruiser he kept dropping to his knees. He was “unintelligible, moaning, slurring, shaking, groaning, and gurgling.” When advised he would be charge, House indicated he understood and confirmed he wanted a lawyer when asked. When the officers pulled him out of the back of the cruiser he said, “I’m sorry if I came off rude.”

He continued moaning, groaning and speaking largely unintelligibly during a medical assessment and ambulance ride. Police again advised House of his charges and rights. However, the arresting officer did not believe House was in the state of mind to understand them.

House arrived at the Hagersville hospital around 10:30 p.m. It was learned he’d bitten off part of his tongue and had hypothermia. He grew more coherent under medical care and was able to provide a statement to police around 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 4. The statement could not be used in court for any factual purpose, but could be used to illustrate House’s state of mind.

The video contains the moment House learned he had been charged with murder, which he seemingly struggled to understand. He grows visibly upset when he is told someone has died. When left in the room alone for a few minutes he questions aloud how he could have killed someone and wonders if there had been a car accident.

“House is again told that ‘a guy died’ and he responds, ‘Oh man and that’s on me.’ The officer then says, ‘The guy tried to help you,’ and Mr. House responds, “Oh f*ck,'” Bordin wrote. He told the officer the only way he could have killed someone was ““a car accident you said I hurt I kill I killed a guy all I could think about was I hit him with a car or something and I crashed into a tree or something like that.”

Later, in court, forensic psychiatrists Dr. Gary Chaimowitz and Dr. Julian Gojer testified House was unable to know the difference between right and wrong and was “incapable of rational thought” at the time of the attack. Bordin felt the interview and House’s reactions corroborated these findings.

In weighing possible decisions, Bordin also needed to consider House’s background. House is an Indigenous man from Hamilton. He was one of many children growing up in a chaotic household, ” a scene of adult extended family members drinking, partying, and fighting,” Bordin described. His mother was a frequently absent alcoholic. The fridge was often empty and House suffered significant abuse.

House’s grandparents were residential school survivors. He also lost several family members of his generation including three cousins and and two brothers. He saw his father twice; once alive and once in the morgue. He met Stephanie Duby, his partner, at 21 and the couple have since had five children. Prior to Pender’s death, he had no criminal record.

At trial, House was “open, frank, and honest,” according to Bordin, “he reiterated that he had no idea what happened on February 3, 2022 and does not recall what happened. He said he was extremely sorry to the family that he hurt, and to his own family.”

House told Gojer he sometimes heard voices and had tried to hurt himself to stop them. However, he gave no such evidence at trial. Likewise, House has a long history, since childhood of “seeing spirits” Duby and other witnesses report House would often demand the spirits leave his house. He testified the use of antipsychotic drugs has lessened these visions.

He’s also found to have had paranoia about cell phones, cameras being followed and hearing things that are not there. While House said he had never blacked out before, like he had on Feb. 3, Duby testified otherwise. In the months before the attack, Duby said there were several times House had blacked out and assaulted her, often while talking about “them” and “installing cameras.”

“His eyes were blank, emotionless, like he was not there,” Bordin wrote. In the week prior to the attack, when House did not go to work, he believed Duby was cheating on him and began sticking knives in electrical sockets and light switches to destroy cameras.

Chaimowitz blamed House’s extensive drug use for these symptoms and told the court of his belief House was criminally responsible for his actions. Conversely, Gojer believed House suffered from schizophrenia or a related disorder. Gojer found this made House not criminally responsible. A full breakdown of their arguments is available in Bordin’s decision.

Ultimately Bordin concluded “House unlawfully caused the death of Paul Pender but is not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.” As such he’s been remanded to Ontario Review Board and has been committed to St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton Forensic Psychiatry Program.

 

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