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Kelowna man found guilty of driving stolen truck drunk on Coquihalla

July 28, 2016 - 6:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - A young Kelowna man, who admits to being a heavy drinker, may be spending more time behind bars after being found guilty of two break-ins and stealing a truck in Kamloops court today.

Niko Haines, 23, appeared in Kamloops Supreme Court, July 28, facing nine charges stemming from a crime spree earlier this year and was found guilty on all counts.

This isn't the first time Haines's drinking has led to trouble with the law. He was caught stealing a bottle of booze from a liquor store in Kelowna on June 9, 2014.

Judge Sheri Donegan read in her decision Haines was charged in connection to a home break-in in Merritt.

On Jan. 13, a homeowner called police reporting his red Ford F-350 truck stolen and his home ransacked. The man told police several items had been taken from his home including two rifles, a check and frozen food from the freezer.

A short time later, a woman called from a nearby hockey rink saying her red Ford F-150 truck had been broken into and several items stolen from inside. Two of the truck's windows were smashed in. Donegan said the woman reported two checks and four gift cards missing from her truck console.

Court heard Haines admitted during the trial to stealing a truck, driving drunk and driving dangerously but said he had nothing to do with either break-in.

Donegan said Haines testified he had been drinking all day and night in Kelowna on Jan. 12, and began hitchhiking to Merritt around midnight. He said he arrived in Merritt just before 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 13. Haines's ride had dropped him off at the 7-Eleven in town.

In her decision, Donegan read Haines had spotted a Ford F-350 across the street from the 7-Eleven running with nobody in it or around it. He went over to the truck, hopped in and drove across the street back to the 7-Eleven to ask for directions to Williams Lake.

Haines set out on the Coquihalla heading toward Williams Lake with a bottle of whisky beside him that he would take swigs from every so often.

About 60 kilometres outside of Merritt, a Logan Lake police officer received reports of an impaired driver in the area. He spotted the red Ford and began to follow. Donegan said the officer eventually pulled Haines over near Kamloops and asked for a breath sample, which the suspect refused. He was arrested and has been in custody since.

Police found all of the stolen property from the home that was broken into inside the stolen truck, and the woman's gift cards were found in Haines's wallet.

"I find the accused guilty of all outstanding counts," Donegan said.

Lawyers are expected to go over sentencing submissions later today.


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