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Kamloops man could spend the rest of his life behind bars for violent, alcohol-infused past

January 16, 2017 - 8:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - Virtually every romantic partner Michael Tom has ever had has fallen victim to his drunken assaults and now he could spend the rest of his life in prison for it.

Tom, 39, has been designated a dangerous offender by Kamloops Supreme Court judge Sheri Donegan, who sentenced Tom today to an indeterminate period of time in jail.

This means Tom will likely be in prison for the rest of his life, but if he shows prospects of rehabilitation during his time in custody, the parole board may agree to hold a hearing to determine his eligibility for release.

Tom, who is from Lillooet, has spent the majority of his adult life either in custody or on probation, beginning with his first, most serious crime — killing his uncle in 1998, Donegan said in her reasons for judgement today, Jan. 16.

Tom was with his uncle Leo Peters and friends on the evening of Sept. 4, 1998. Court heard Peters was acting aggressively toward Tom and the two got in an altercation, which eventually led to Tom shooting his uncle in the stomach with a rifle.

Tom pleaded guilty to manslaughter the following year, saying he was too intoxicated to have motive for murder. He got the minimum prison sentence for that offence – four years behind bars.

Between his release from prison and 2014, Tom racked up 36 convictions on his record, Donegan said. He became affiliated with a gang called the Indian Posse while he was in custody. He worked with them for several years, selling drugs whenever he was released from prison for various offences.

"His offences consist almost solely of violent offences, weapons offences and breaches of court order," Donegan said.

Tom was in a relationship with a Lillooet woman from 2001 until 2007, court heard. Her name cannot be disclosed due to a court-ordered publication ban. Donegan said the woman testified in the dangerous offender hearing that their relationship began great, but Tom began drinking more and more, eventually becoming violent toward her.

His ex-partner said when Tom drank there was a 50/50 chance he would assault her. The worst of which, she testified, was a night in 2006 when Tom and his brothers were drinking. The woman was lying on the couch getting ready to sleep when Tom began trying to have sex with her.

When she protested, Tom headbutted her. The woman ran to the bedroom but Tom chased her, eventually hitting her with a rifle multiple times. He told her to shoot herself because she was worthless, and that if she didn't he would kill her family.

Tom held the gun under her chin and again told her to kill herself. Donegan said the woman contemplated pulling the trigger, but was eventually able to wrestle him off. This incident went on for approximately four to five hours, along with rape. She never went to police.

The couple eventually moved to Vancouver and Tom's criminal behaviour persisted, including robbery, ransacking his partner's apartment after she left him and selling drugs on the downtown eastside of Vancouver.

Tom eventually moved back to Lillooet, where he still found himself on the wrong side of the law. In 2008, Tom and his friends went to drink by the river one evening, court heard. One of the men was hit in the back of the head, although it's not clear if Tom had anything to do with the assault.

The man woke up with his feet in the river. Tom and a friend walked past the victim's house, where Tom told the man's wife her husband had been beaten up. Tom said they had thrown the man in the river and if she called the police she would be next.

After his release from prison on that offence, he still landed behind bars several times for situations including a police chase, threatening pedestrians and allegedly beating family members up.

In 2011 he began another relationship with a different woman, but with a similar storyline to his previous relationship. Things started out great but quickly turned sour after Tom began drinking heavily and getting jealous easily.

Tom and his new partner got in several fights in May 2012, most of them having to do with him questioning her faithfulness. He beat her while she drove, threw a rock at her vehicle and told her he could throw her in the river and no one would know.

He told her that her children would become motherless, Donegan said. After his release from jail on those offences he was put on a 12-month probation.

"Including various conditions that are now all too familiar," Donegan said. 

Tom, once again, failed to abide by those conditions, continually drinking and getting into trouble. One offence in 2013 included hitting a man on the side of the head with a metal fence pole in Riverside Park.

In 2014, Tom began his latest relationship with a woman who built a makeshift home on the riverbank in Kamloops. They lived together in the tent near the Red Bridge, but she reported the same problems his previous partners did.

He was arrested and convicted of forcible confinement, assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm and possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose in connection to a June 2014 incident.

Tom slashed the woman's tent with a knife, beat her with the handle of it and essentially held her hostage for hours. 

A forensic psychiatrist who interviewed Tom says his risk of re-offending has only increased over the years. He's high risk to reoffend violently, particularly with domestic partners.

The psychiatrist says Tom meets the criteria of anti-social personality disorder and there is little to no hope of his prospects for rehabilitation.

"Her opinions are fairly pessimistic," Donegan said.

Donegan broke Tom's patterns of behaviour down into two categories. The first being aggressive, with a variety of victims ranging from complete strangers to family members and romantic partners.

The second is a more focused pattern of behaviour of inflicting violence on intimate partners. Donegan says his behaviours can be described as sexual jealousy, desire to dominate and a need for confinement or control.

"Mr. Tom has taken one person's life and could easily have taken the lives of others," Donegan said.

She said anything less than an indeterminate sentence would be a risk to public safety. Defence lawyer Ken Sommerfeld asked for a sentence of seven to 10 years with a 10-year period of long term supervision after his release.

Donegan says although Tom has showed remorse during the dangerous offender hearing, she says she doesn't believe his feelings are genuine.

"I reach this conclusion because I do not believe Mr. Tom," she said. "I do have sympathy for Mr. Tom but he has said and done all of this before."

Tom has previously told the courts he would change his ways and apologized for his actions. One report said Tom's parents were residential school survivors who inflicted abuse and violence upon him.

"I find you to be a dangerous offender and I sentence you to be detained in a penitentiary for an indeterminate amount of time," Donegan said.


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