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Man admits to park manslaughter

Incident happened in Polson Park in August 2015; sentenced to five years in jail

Tal Kalum La Riviere looked into the camera where, on the screen, he could see the family of the man whose life he helped take, and, reading from a written statement, extended apologies.

La Riviere, 30, pleaded guilty in Vernon Court Monday to manslaughter in connection with the death of Jason Hardy, 42, in Polson Park in August 2015.

“I’ve tried to think about what I want to say but it’s hard to find anything I might say that would be appropriate,” said La Riviere, wearing red prison garb. “I apologize to the family and friends for my actions that caused this to happen…I hope you accept my apology because it comes from the bottom of my heart.”

La Riviere was sentenced to a total of five years in prison, a recommendation made by both Crown counsel William J. Hilderman and La Riviere’s lawyer, Robert Claus, and agreed to by Judge Mayland McKimm. He was given credit for time served, so his new jail time is 721 days, or two years less nine days.

Court heard how, in the early hours of Aug. 26, 2015, Hardy had been waiting until after midnight for a cheque to be deposited into his bank account so he and La Riviere could go “halfers” on buying drugs. The two withdrew some money, using Hardy’s bank account and, joined by two other individuals, aged 17 and 14 at the time, headed to Polson Park.

A dispute broke out between Hardy and La Riviere, with the victim accusing the suspect of not giving back his bank card.

Hardy, who had his own demons, suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, was kicked and punched by the three individuals between six and 12 times. He was covered with a quilt and died in the park. Cause of death was from a subdural haemorrhage, resulting from blunt force trauma.

La Riviere, who had an extensive criminal record at the time of his arrest, was on probation for one of three prior assault charges.

Charges against the other two individuals were subsequently dropped.

Court heard Monday three victim impact statements from Hardy’s family, two of which were read in court, one by his nephew, Jamie, and one by his step-mother, Connie Allard, who joined Hardy’s father, John, in coming to Monday’s proceedings from their home in London, Ont. Hardy’s birth mom died in a car accident when he was 14, and Allard said Hardy had struggled with that ever since. The two are now buried side-by-side in Ontario.

“Jason was a kind and caring person to his friends and he would be the first one to help,” said Allard, dabbing away tears during her statement. He called us every couple of weeks and the last time we talked to him, he talked about moving home to Ontario. We were going to ask him to come home the next time he called, but the call never came. Instead, it came from the RCMP.

“No person deserves to die like that – La Riviere’s head was bowed as Allard read her statement – and the tears are never-ending. There was no chance to say goodbye. We miss him.”

Claus said La Riviere had been in and out of between 20 and 30 foster homes since he was a toddler, and struggled with drug and alcohol addictions. He said his client has cleaned himself up in prison, thanks to a number of ongoing programs. His own father died while La Riviere was in prison.

“He accepted responsibility and acknowledges that,” said Claus, whose client was originally charged with second-degree murder but wanted to plead guilty to manslaughter. “The loss of life has had a tremendous impact on him. He is extremely remorseful.”

McKimm agreed with Claus’ contention that it was a crime of consequence; that there was never any intention to kill Hardy.

“No sentence will make up for the tragic loss to the Hardy family,” said McKimm.

Allard said the family hopes La Riviere was sincere with his apology.

La Riviere was also ordered to provide a DNA sample and was given a lifetime firearms prohibition.

Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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