Thief avoids jail for crime spree

Thief avoids jail for crime spree

A man is serving a conditional sentence at home after pleading guilty to a couple of break-ins last year in Oliver. The sentence was handed down in Penticton court on Wednesday.

By Lyonel Doherty

An Oliver man who was on a drug binge during a crime spree last year will not be going to jail.

Devon Edward Frank Nemes, 27, has been given a conditional sentence (house arrest) for a couple of break-ins in Oliver in December of 2017. He must also pay approximately $1,700 in restitution to his victims, and abide by a strict curfew.

His sentencing took place in Penticton court on Wednesday in front of Judge Gregory Koturbash.

The crimes

Crown counsel John Swanson alleged that Nemes was involved in a break-in at 445 Duncan Ave. East in Penticton on December 16. The homeowners were away at the time and returned to find a number of items missing, valued at $9,000. Swanson reported that Nemes’ fingerprints were found on two television sets that were left in a front entranceway. It was suspected that Nemes was accompanied by other individuals at the time.

However, Swanson said Nemes was on a drinking/drug binge and had no recollection of being in Penticton that day.

“He can’t recall the events at all; he has no idea how he got there.”

The prosecutor detailed the next crime, which Nemes committed at 9:30 p.m. in Oliver on December 17. The complaint came in as a disturbance at 318 Lupine Lane, the home of Allan Patton.

Swanson said Nemes simply walked into the house, where the homeowner confronted him and gave chase after the suspect fled. Both men struggled with each other in the driveway. At one point Nemes broke free and ran down a steep bank and fell into the Okanagan River. Patton then called the police.

The chase

Allan Patton chased down the intruder that walked into his home on Lupine Lane last year. (File photo)

Patton told the Chronicle that Nemes sauntered right into his kitchen while he was watching TV.

“I said, ‘Who the f—k are you?’”

Startled, Nemes then ran out of the house, with Patton in close pursuit in his underwear and socks.

Patton caught up to the intruder and grabbed him, resulting in both men pirouetting down the driveway.

“It was like a scene out of Breaking Bad; it was bizarre.”

Patton said the young man took off again, at which point the homeowner picked up a couple of rocks to defend himself. He chased Nemes down to the river, where he lost him.

“It was a little scary. I didn’t know what he had (for a weapon).”

But Patton noted the man wasn’t aggressive, and no assault took place.

The homeowner subsequently saw police emergency lights at a nearby residence (about 500 metres away).

I need help!

Swanson said Nemes made his way to 298 Road 9 where he banged on the door and yelled, “Help me. I’m freezing to death. I need help!”

The woman in the home was frightened and thought someone was trying to break in. So she called 9-1-1 and ran into the bathroom. Swanson said the woman then heard the sound of breaking glass, followed by the sound of someone rummaging through the house.

A few minutes later the intruder left, but police were hot on his trail with the use of a canine tracker.

The arrest

The dog soon tracked him to another property where Nemes was found wrapped in a blanket inside a truck. He was only wearing boxer shorts.

A subsequent search on the trail discovered a laptop computer, a woman’s jacket and a purse belonging to the female victim.

Defence lawyer Blair Suffredine said his client had no recollection of the first incident on Lupine Lane.

“He didn’t know why he found himself barefoot and freezing. He was yelling for help because he was freezing to death.”

Swanson said Nemes’ subsequent drug treatment was successful, noting he has a “good handle on the drug issue” now and appears “much more stable.”

The sentence

The prosecutor recommended a total of 14 months of house arrest (factoring in time already served). Nemes must stay in his residence except for employment purposes, and must abide by a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.

Suffredine said Nemes works as a diamond driller in a business that he inherited.

The lawyer said his client was making lots of money and fell into drugs, which led him to lose control of his life. But his plans are to return to work.

The atonement

When asked if he had anything to say, Nemes admitted he made mistakes and is atoning for his actions.

“I just want to move forward and make positive changes,” he told the judge.

Koturbash noted that since Nemes likely earns “a ton of cash,” he should be paying restitution to his victims, something he noted the Crown did not address.

So he ordered Nemes to pay $700 to the female and $1,000 for the other break-in.

The judge acknowledged that Nemes was a very different person during the crime spree compared to today.

“Throwing you back in custody won’t do anyone any favours.”

But he warned the man if he breaches any of his conditions, he will find himself in jail.

Koturbash ordered Nemes to stay away from the three properties that he visited, and not to have any contact with the victims. The only exception is participating in restorative justice (where all parties sit at a table and discuss the impact of the crimes). Hopefully, this will displace any thought that Nemes is the “boogey man,” the judge said.

Patton agreed that restorative justice is a good idea in this case and he plans to take advantage of it.

What the victim thinks

Reflecting on the case, Patton said he isn’t totally convinced that Nemes had no recollection of what happened, and he questions the man’s plea for help that night since he broke into the woman’s house and stole items of value.

“I feel embarrassed and ashamed for not stopping him (considering) the way he did terrorize that woman . . . what she went through must have been terrible.”

And it could have been much worse, he said.

Patton said he is only “half satisfied” with the sentence, noting he expected Nemes to go to jail.

“I don’t think we’ll see a big drop in crime because of this case.”

Patton said if he was a “junky thief,” that sentence wouldn’t deter him.

He noted that house arrest does not address the big picture of rampant crime in Oliver’s rural area.