Updated: Crown seeking 10 years for domestic violence attack, arson

Langley's Andre Richard beat, stabbed his ex-wife and daughter and then lit the home on fire in April last year.

Andre Richard

Andre Richard

When Andre Richard broke into his family’s Langley home last April, beat and stabbed his estranged wife and stepdaughter, and then lit the residence on fire he devastated his loved ones’ lives forever, said Richard’s ex-wife at his sentencing hearing on Thursday.

Richard, 44, was in Surrey Provincial Court for a sentencing hearing that included victim impact statements read out by his ex-wife and his teenage stepdaughter.

Crown counsel asked that Richard be sentenced to 10 years in federal prison minus time served. In December, he pleaded guilty to breaking into his family home as well as to two counts of aggravated assault against his wife and stepdaughter and arson.

Defense counsel asked that Richard serve five to six years.

“A part of each of us died that night,” said his ex-wife, crying as she read out her statement.

“You have stolen our children’s innocence. This will forever leave an imprint,” she said.

She said the scars on her body are a constant reminder of what happened.

“I’m emotionally consumed by this. My life is one medical appointment after another,” she said of the serious injuries she sustained.

The family was forced out of the home by the fire, but their insurance has not paid anything and so she is forced to pay a mortgage on a home that no longer exists. At the same time, she must pay rent and buy groceries. She is unable to work because of her physical injuries.

Their eight-year-old son has become withdrawn after being teased at school. Their teenage daughter has physical scars as permanent reminders and has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. She said she has trust issues and anxiety, suffering fears about fire and big men, among other things.

Richard’s ex-wife said she is unable to work, sleep, eat and has trouble functioning on a day-to-day basis. She also has permanent scars from her slash wounds. The beating he gave her has caused numbness in her arms and, despite regular physiotherapy, she has never regained her former strength. She also suffers from chronic headaches.

The court learned that Richard refused to undergo a psychiatric evaluation or to be involved in a pre-sentence report.

“We have no way to gauge his risk to re-offend, but protection to the public is paramount. He poses a high risk to re-offend to his family,” said Crown counsel.

It was learned that Richard had been married to his wife for nine years but that the relationship was often violent. The children were taken away by the Ministry at one point.

The court heard that police were called to the home on a number of occasions. In February last year, Richard was arrested for assaulting his son. He was released on bail with a promise not to contact any member of his family.

He went to live with a co-worker. But his family was his whole world, the court learned. He had no friends and wasn’t coping well with not being able to see his ex-wife and children. At one point mentioned burning down the family home to his co-worker.

The day before the attacks, Richard had been served with divorce papers, along with provisions not to contact his family.

Distraught, he sought out several people from his church and from his son’s school that day to talk about the divorce papers. He was told to seek help and pray.

Richard was arrested in the East Kootenays the day after his wife and her two children managed to escape their burning house on Wakefield Drive in Langley’s Willoughby neighbourhood.

The three were asleep when Richard broke a sliding glass window to gain entry to the home at around 1 a.m. on April 2.

The court learned that he went upstairs to his wife’s bedroom, carrying a mallet and jagged drywall knife. Their daughter heard her mom’s screams and ran to the room to find her stepfather hitting her mother in the face, first with his fist and then with the mallet.

When the daughter tried to intervene, Richard punched her in the shoulder and slashed her with the knife, cutting her chest. He continued to attack his wife, beating her with the mallet and slashing her in the face, chest, neck and arms.

The woman told her daughter to press the panic button on the alarm system and to call 911. The daughter managed to press the panic button. That’s when Richard fled the bedroom.

He poured accelerant on the living room floor and lit it on fire, before exiting the home.

The woman and both children came downstairs to find the living room engulfed in flames. They fled through the front door and ran to a neighbour’s house.

The neighbour answered the door to find both the wife and daughter covered in blood.

The fire spread quickly, destroying the family home and all their personal belongings.

The family was rushed to hospital.

Richard’s wife suffered a punctured lung and needed stitches for a two-inch gash on her forehead. She also had cuts from her cheek to her mouth, on her neck, arms and hands and had suffered blunt force trauma. She spent two days in hospital.

Her daughter required stitches for gashes to her chest and skull. She also had soft tissue injuries to her upper body and shoulder.

The son wasn’t harmed.

A warrant was issued for Richard’s arrest.

The next day, RCMP received a call about an erratic, and possibly impaired, driver near Fernie, about 30 minutes from the Alberta border.

A witness followed the suspect until the vehicle — a grey Saturn SUV — came to a stop.

The driver exited the vehicle and ran into bushes at the side of the road, said police.

A crisis negotiator convinced Richard to surrender without further incident.

Richard had cut his wrists. Prior to being arrested he had purchased duct tape, dryer vent tubing and had ingested a box of cold medication.

Richard will be sentenced at another date.