Kelowna man published video of hamster torture to 'ruin peoples' day' | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna man published video of hamster torture to 'ruin peoples' day'

Leighton Allen Labute, 21, was sentenced today, Aug. 18, for causing unnecessary pain/suffering to three hamsters.
Image Credit: Instagram/Leighton Labute
August 18, 2021 - 4:52 PM


The now-21-year-old Kelowna man who recorded himself torturing three hamsters and publishing the video to various social media sites "to ruin peoples’ day" is considered by two psychiatric reports to be a low risk to reoffend with animals or in any other criminal way.

Leighton Labute was also assessed in June, just a month after he was charged with causing unnecessary pain and suffering to animals, with severe autism spectrum disorder with low IQ and the emotional development of a 12- or 13-year-old. But he also showed symptoms from a very young age and suffered through school. His actions were considered a cry for attention. 

All those factors led directly to the crime, a provincial court judge heard at a sentencing hearing today, Aug. 18.

Judge Paul Dohm heard today that Labute has no friends and was bullied throughout school because of his inability to understand social cues.

READ MORE: Kelowna man pleads guilty to torturing hamsters

“He takes some joy in having these types of imagery on Reddit threads to, as he puts it, to 'ruin peoples’ day,’” Crown prosecutor Meagan Richards said, and for “shock value, which is what Mr. Labute was trying to achieve.”

Those same doctors also said unequivocally, he is not a psychopath, which set the circumstances of his animal torture of family pets apart from other cases.

Labute was sentenced today to 18 months in prison in the form of house arrest under curfew and another three years probation, both of which contain numerous conditions, including that he not own animals for 20 years and not enter any premises where pets are sold or adopted.

The case has attracted significant community and media attention since he was charged in May, 2020. That has included vandalism to his parents’ home and protests outside court once the videos and his disturbing social media accounts were found.

The court took note of this community and media involvement, though it was not considered a mitigating factor in sentencing.

Labute’s videos were discovered by an animal rights group in the U.S. which informed the RCMP, who tracked Labute down and seized computer records, a “little dissection kit” containing small tweezers and scissors, and a diary that showed his hamster video was planned beforehand.

He bought the three hamsters and killed them by dismembering one, drowning another and putting the third in a microwave. He published the video, called One Kid, Three Hamsters to YouTube under his handle, DollyFlesh.

READ MORE: Rally against accused Kelowna animal torturer planned

He told police his aim was to post them in various benign Reddit groups where people wouldn’t expect to find the images.

His lawyer, Julian van der Walle, said his client was “an open book” with police about his intentions and actions. He admitted to police he also once killed a baby duck.

Investigators also turned up plenty more disturbing images and comments, including publishing a fantasy of wanting to be raped by a cute girl (Britney Spears), other videos simulating sex with a doll.

Court heard that police considered a charge of child pornography, but couldn’t make the case.

Then there were his claymation creations. While his autism left him deficient in many other aspects, it manifested in a talent and dedication to creating things with clay. Unfortunately, what he made often involved violent sexual imagery, violence and dismemberment, all part of his fascination with the macabre.

van der Walle said with some guidance and court-ordered counselling, his skills could be his future, perhaps in motion pictures.

“It was obviously macabre but (these were) his attempts to gain attention on the internet,” he said. “It worked. He was able to amass a remarkable amount of followers to his accounts… (and) fully grown adults… found this material interesting enough to follow and comment on it positively."

His low IQ and social dysfunction also meant he had little appreciation for what he was doing. He told a psychiatrist he didn’t think the hamsters would feel pain “since they were so small.”

When asked why he thought people would be upset with what he did, he said he thought people who owned hamsters would be upset because they like hamsters. He also equated it to other videos he saw of people feeding small animals to snakes, etc.

READ MORE: Neighbours of accused Kelowna hamster killer protest outside courthouse

van der Walle said with the sentencing conditions he crafted together with the Crown, Labute will be under court and parental monitoring for 4.5 years.

“I hope the community understands his parents are good people,” he said. “They don’t deserve the community's condemnation nor to have their house vandalized.”

The family also released a statement asking for community support and to be left alone "so they can move on as best as they can with life in peace."

"This was a desperate cry for attention by a young man with the mental age of a 12-year-old and who had been bullied all of his life because of his autism. The Labutes love their son Leighton very deeply." They vowed to keep him away from the internet "that so negatively influenced him."

Under his prison sentence and probation, he will not be allowed to have guns, knives, drugs, scissors or tweezers, unfettered access to the internet and won’t be allowed to post comments or images to social media. He was also ordered to submit a DNA sample. He is to remain in his home for the next 18 months with a curfew of 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

van der Walle said he had no doubt the community would help ensure he was well monitored.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Marshall Jones or call 250-718-2724 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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