WARNING: Contents may disturb some readers
An Ottawa judge found a suspended RCMP counter-terrorism officer guilty in a "gut-wrenching" case Monday after hearing how the accused chained up his 11-year-old son in the basement and tormented him with a barbecue lighter.
The evidence presented at trial — illustrating how the adolescent boy was abused, confined, burned, beaten, assaulted and starved — was "unequivocal and overwhelming," Justice Robert Maranger said in his written ruling.
But ultimately, Maranger said, it was the video evidence created by the boy's own father that proved the most damning.
Three separate recordings, described by Maranger as "difficult to watch," were found on the man's cellphone. They depicted a quivering boy, naked and wet with his hands tied behind a post, as his father insisted that he renounce Satan.
"The viewer is left with images that are forever etched in the darkest, saddest recesses of that person's memory," Maranger wrote in describing the video footage, recorded in January 2013.
In the final video, the boy looked emaciated, a crucifix was drawn in felt-tip marker on his chest and a portion of one of his front teeth appeared to be missing.
During the sensational trial earlier this year, the father took the stand in his own defence. He testified he believed he was "living with the devil," and said he was afraid his son was planning to stab him in the heart in his sleep.
He also admitted to chaining his son in the family's basement, torturing him, burning him with a barbecue lighter and rationing his food.
The Crown's case involved incidents spanning a six-month period that ended when the boy escaped to a neighbour's home in February 2013 in search of water. The judge, however, said he believed the abuse began well prior to when the 11-year-old began being home-schooled in the fall of 2012.
The 44-year-old man, who cannot be identified, was convicted of two counts of aggravated assault, one each of sexual assault causing bodily harm, unlawful confinement, assault and failing to provide the necessaries of life, and a range of firearms offences.
The boy's stepmother was also found guilty of assault with a weapon and failing to provide the necessaries of life. She faces a sentencing hearing on Dec. 2, but no such date was immediately set for the father, who may end up having to undergo a further psychiatric assessment.
The two accused sat expressionless in the courtroom as the judgment was read. Later, after bail was revoked for both, they were led away in handcuffs, the father with his head bowed, the mother with tears in her eyes.
"This was a very difficult trial," said Maranger, who described the abuse as "disturbing."
"That a parent could do the things that were done to (this boy) was gut-wrenching."
In his ruling, the judge said he didn't believe the father's argument that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time he inflicted the abuse.
Maranger also commended the boy for being able to testify on his own behalf, despite the treatment to which he'd been subjected.
"The fact that this half-starved, burned and battered 11-year-old could somehow summon up the strength to escape his cruel captivity, and later seemingly rise above it, is a testament to the indomitability of the human spirit."
Some 11 members of the group Bikers Against Child Abuse sat in the courtroom as Maranger read a summary of his 70-page decision.
Their leader, who identified himself only as Titan, said responsibility for what happened to the young boy stretches beyond the parents, and that people shouldn't remain silent when they suspect a child is being mistreated.
"As far as we're concerned, the whole community let him down," the man said.
"People need to be aware of what goes on. This isn't an isolated case. It's a very big case, obviously, but abuse happens on a regular basis and the community at large needs to understand that this does happen."