Five years in jail for 2015 home invasion of 85-year-old Kelowna woman

KELOWNA – A local man with a history of addiction has been sentenced to five years in jail for the early morning home invasion of an 85-year-old West Kelowna woman last fall.

Benjamin Duane Barnhart, 25, pleaded guilty to breaking into the elderly woman's home at 2 a.m., gagging her and robbing her of cash, a bank card and credit card.

He was arrested at his mother’s house on Oct. 25, 2015 after surveillance footage showed him withdrawing cash from her account and making purchases with her credit card.

According to a judgement published this week, Provincial court judge Gregory Koturbash says Barnhart admitted he used a crowbar to gain entry to the home. The victim, who lives alone, woke to a strange sound, turned on her bedroom light and picked up a phone to call police.

She was interrupted when Barnhart entered the bedroom and grabbed the phone from her.

He then took her into a utility room, opened an entry into a crawl space and made her sit down before filling a bag with beer. He asked her for painkillers but she said she didn’t have any.

“He wanted her rings, but she refused to take them off. She gave him $30 to $50 in change before he grabbed a scarf and tied it around her mouth in an attempt to muzzle her,” Koturbash writes.

The victim was able to escape the house when Barnhart went looking for her purse in another room.

A police dog was able to follow a track to Barnhart’s mother’s home but despite him admitting he had been out that evening, he was not arrested.

Seven hours later Barnhart withdrew $800 from the victim’s bank using her ATM card and also bought jeans, a cell phone, food and a SIM card.

Police were able to get a search warrant after he was captured on surveillance at the bank and London Drugs. Several of the stolen items, including blank checks he made out to his mother, were found in his bedroom.

He was arrested and found in possession of crystal meth and cocaine in his pockets.

His mother also confessed to impersonating the victim on the phone in an attempt to increase the credit limit on a credit card.

"During the period leading up to the alleged offence, Mr. Barnhart had been doing crystal meth and self-reports that he had not been sleeping for days,” Koturbash writes. “Mr. Barnhart’s crimes were motivated by his efforts to fuel his drug addiction. He is quoted in one of the reports as saying, “I only needed more drugs, I was angry, mad at myself, I didn’t care if I lived or died, all I was caring (about) was getting drugs.”

Crown lawyer Murray Kaay wanted a sentence of between six and seven years less the year he spent in custody.

Despite the elderly victim being left to “live in fear that her residence will be broken into again, or that Mr. Barnhart will return to exact his revenge” Koturbash sentenced him to five years for the invasion and robbery and an additional six months for a March 2015 attempted theft of a briefcase that turned out to contain roughly $6,000.

He was also sentenced to an additional 21 days in jail for breaching conditions of his probation.

Barnhart has a criminal record going back to 2013 that includes numerous breaches, thefts and criminal harrassment.

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