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

The Township of Spallumcheen is now handling applications for planning and development. (Morning Star - file photo)
Township of Spallumcheen handling development, planning applications

Convenient service for township residents, businesses, who no longer have to travel to Coldstream

An Enderby restaurant and pub was shut down Sunday afternoon, Nov. 29, 2020 as a precaution after a guest reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. (Howard Johnson photo)
Enderby pub reopens after COVID-19 scare

After a guest reportedly tested positive for the virus, staff test results came back negative

Vernon Teach and Learn has earned numerous awards throughout its family-owned and operated history. (Photo submitted)
Vernon’s guide for Christmas toy shopping locally rather than online

Local businesses need support during the pandemic, and they’ve also got the goods this holiday season

Nanaimo RCMP found drugs and cash inside a vehicle pulled over for expired insurance.
(File photo)
Occupant extracted from crash north of Vernon

Car went over embankment off Highway 97 in Spallumcheen

The City of Vernon broke ground on some new affordable housing to be built on Pleasant Valley Road in August. The city, along with the Okanagan Indian Band, will receive more units courtesy of the province. (Morning Star - file photo)
Affordable housing moves to Vernon, Okanagan Indian Band

Close to 30 homes to be built for low-to-moderate-income families

(Google Maps)
Osoyoos Credit Union staff member tests positive for COVID-19

The credit union made the announcement Dec. 1

Elkhart Gas Station, located on Highway 97C about 60 kilometres west of Peachland, opened in November 2020. (Google maps)
The Okanagan Connector now has a gas station

The highway previously ran for over 117 kilometres without a place to fuel up

The Hughes’ Grinch was stolen from their front yard Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2020. The Santa suit the Grinch is wearing is 50 years old and has sentimental value. It was once worn by April Hughes’ dad. (Hughes photo)
Grinch stolen from Penticton home is ‘irreplaceable’

The Hughes have had a Christmas display for 25 years on Grandy Avenue in Penticton

Midway RCMP’s Cpl. Phil Peters spoke at Greenwood’s city council meeting Monday, Nov. 23. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
B.C. Mountie builds fire to warm suspect with hypothermia prior to rescue

Cpl. Phil Peters said the civilian helped police track, apprehend and eventually rescue the suspect

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Revelstoke COVID-19 cluster linked to non-essential travel: Horgan

There have been 46 cases of COVID-19 in the community

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

Most Read