Special to the Castlegar News
A BC Provincial Court judge has sentenced a man to nine years in prison for a violent, drug-induced attack at the Castlegar airport.
Aaron Welch, 28, pleaded guilty to 14 charges including aggravated assault, robbery, and mischief, stemming from the bizarre scene that saw a man stabbed in the face and over a dozen vehicles damaged.
Sentenced Monday in Nelson, he was given time-and-a-half credit for the six months he has already spent in custody, meaning he will need to serve another eight years and three months.
The Crown wanted a ten-year sentence, while the defence asked for four to six years.
Welch had 32 offences on his record between 2001 and 2012, including several assault convictions that resulted in jail time. His longest previous sentence, however, was nine months.
A psychologist’s report suggested he is a high risk to re-offend and has shown “poor motivation” to deal with his drug problem.
Court heard that on February 16, while delusional on crystal meth, Welch took three rebar stakes used for snow removal and smashed several vehicles in the airport’s long-term parking area, hoping to steal a vehicle and drive to Winlaw. He took several items, including a pair of tin snips.
Around 5:30 a.m., a witness called 911. Welch ran towards the man’s truck and threw an object at it. Before police arrived, another driver pulled over and rolled his window down to ask if Welch needed help.
Welch responded by stabbing the 63-year-old man in the face with the tin snips, causing a laceration around his right eye. The victim exited his truck, and Welch got in and began to drive away, but was rammed by another truck, and then collided with an arriving police car.
An RCMP officer tackled Welch in a snowbank and held him with the help of two witnesses.
Welch told police he “felt trapped” and wanted to see his family. He has a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, and had recently been laid off from his construction job. He hadn’t slept in a couple of days and was hallucinating.
The stabbing victim was taken to hospital in Trail and then transferred to Kelowna. Crown prosecutor Sandy Sinclair told the court that at one point in the emergency room, the man’s heart briefly stopped. He suffered “significant” scarring as a result of the attack, has undergone two surgeries, and is headed for a third.
Sinclair said Welch’s lengthy history of violence and breaching court conditions demanded a much longer jail sentence than he had served before.
Defence lawyer Kenyon McGee said mitigating factors included Welch’s early guilty plea, genuine remorse, and difficult upbringing — his father died of a brain aneurysm when he was five, and he had a poor relationship with his mother and step-father. McGee also said Welch’s previous assault convictions stemmed from fights, not robberies.
Judge Richard Hewson called the case one of “shocking violence” and a “life-altering event” for the stabbing victim. He sentenced Welch to nine years in prison for robbery, one year each on two counts of attempted robbery, to be served concurrently, and one month each on ten counts of mischief, also concurrent.
In addition, he was given a lifetime firearms ban, ordered to provide a DNA sample, and to pay a total of $2,550 in restitution to the owners of the damaged vehicles, although his lawyer indicated he has no money.
Appearing by video link from prison, Welch briefly apologized to his victims and said he was willing to be treated for his addictions.
The stabbing victim submitted an impact statement, as did two people whose car windows were broken.
— With files from The Goat 99.3 FM