April 26, 2016 - 6:07 PM
HE WROTE A SUICIDE NOTE BEFORE MEETING HER AT RESTAURANT
PENTICTON - A Princeton man avoided trial for the attempted murder of his former wife who he stabbed eleven times at a Princeton fast food parking lot two years ago. Instead, the Crown accepted a guilty plea to aggravated assault by James R. Buhler, 54, and sought a sentence of six to eight years in prison.
Buhler was also charged with aggravated assault of his daughter who was seriously injured trying to stop Buhler from stabbing her mother.
Crown Prosecutor John Swanson accepted the guilty plea to the lesser charges and stayed the charge of attempted murder. Later, in Penticton Supreme Court today, April 26, he recounted grisly details of the Feb. 26, 2014 incident.
Swanson told court Buhler and his wife were already separated, but Buhler changed the locks on their mailbox in Princeton to force her to make contact with him. They met in the parking lot of the Princeton Dairy Queen, where he attempted to reconcile. When it failed, she threatened to call the police.
That's when Buhler attacked her with a 10-inch blade. She tried to flee but fell on the slippery surface of the parking lot. Buhler caught her stabbed her at least 11 times before their daughter, accompanying her mother, grabbed the knife from him, severely lacerating the second, third and fourth fingers of her right hand.
The two women fled into the Dairy Queen, where first aid was given by employees until police and ambulance showed up on scene.
Buhler attempted to slash his own throat prior to arrival of police. When they subdued him, they found a buck knife and a Leatherman tool as well. Back at home, he had already written a suicide note.
Both women were treated in Princeton Hospital before transferring to Penticton Regional Hospital. There Lydia was treated for four stab wounds ranging from four to seven inches long, and seven lacerations ranging from two to 10 centimetres in length.
The two victims read their own victim impact statements in court.
“I’m suffering and in pain all the time," his daughter read. She said the stabbing affected her relationship with her boyfriend.
His former wife said she's been in constant pain since the attack and painkillers do little to help.
“My life had changed so much. I’m a shell of what I used to be,” she read. “I feel I can’t be in another relationship. I did nothing wrong. I tried to mend this man, only to find out he’s mentally unstable.”
She said she lived in constant fear of Buhler getting free and coming after her “to finish the job,” adding she would be dead if not for Amanda.
Swanson asked Judge Austin Cullen for a sentence of six to eight years for the assault on his former wife and two to three years for the assault on his daughter to be served at the same time. He has been in custody since the incident so has already served more than two years of his sentence.
Defence lawyer Tim Russell said Buhler spent much of 2012 under psychiatric care, as well as being an alcoholic. Russell said he accepted medication, therapy and counselling through irregular sessions for his mental illness. Buhler’s mental health began deteriorating significantly when Lydia left the family home in September 2013, Russell said.
He suggested a sentence of five years in prison with a three-year-probation term where Buhler could be closely monitored under a rigid set of conditions.
Buhler also spoke on his own behalf, turning in the direction of his wife and daughter, telling them, “I wish I could relive the terrible things I did. If I could I would do it. I wish I could take your pain and put it on myself. I’ve done worse than I ever thought capable.”
He thanked his daughter for intervening in the stabbing, calling it an “act of bravery.”
“I am so, so sorry, that’s all I can say and I know that’s very little. I’m so proud of all of you and so ashamed of myself. I’m sorry to all of you,” he said to his family, his voice breaking, while his wife and daughter sobbed.
Judge Cullen reserved judgement until 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 27.
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