Okanagan car theft spree set for sentencing in Vernon | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Okanagan car theft spree set for sentencing in Vernon

Provincial Courtroom 201 in the Vernon Courthouse.
December 13, 2018 - 10:00 AM

VERNON - A first-time offender's high-speed, stolen-car-hopping chase through Lavington, Lumby, Vernon, Nakusp, and New Denver finally landed in Vernon court for sentencing.

Daniel Connell, 26, appeared in court yesterday, Dec. 12 for sentencing after pleading guilty to a litany of charges related to multiple car thefts and robberies earlier this year. Crown and defense lawyers laid out the facts of the case and Connell's personal history before making their sentencing requests. Judge Monica McParland deferred sentencing to a later date.

Connell faces charges of robbery, theft of motor vehicles, possessing and using stolen credit cards, fraud under $5000, possession of property obtained by crime, flight from a peace officer, dangerous operation of motor vehicle, wilfully resisting or obstructing a peace officer, and uttering threats. These charges stem from two separate events across B.C. in March and May of this year.

Connell, who spoke in person at the hearing, has no prior criminal record. He said he turned to drug use after his logging truck (the key to his burgeoning trucking business) was damaged in a crash last December. Faced with bankruptcy and familiy problems, he began using methamphetamine as an escape.

"The stresses piled up," he said. "I snapped. My greatest mistake was turning to drugs."

Connell admitted that drug use made him paranoid and aggressive. The Crown detailed how Connell flagged down a driver in Lavington on Mar. 17, 2018. The driver got out of his vehicle (a Dodge Ram) to help Connell, but Connell doused the driver with bear spray and drove off with the truck. The Dodge was later found at a Petro Canada in Lavington, but several debit and credit cards were missing.

Connell used the stolen cards to purchase lottery tickets in Lake Country. Later that day, he stole a tractor trailer and drove it to a Petro Canada in Vernon, where he abandoned it. Bear spray was found inside. The trailer was observed to be hotwired. Using video footage at the gas station, police identified Connell as a suspect.

According to the court, Connell stole a logging truck in Nakusp on May 1. The truck (valued at $300,000) was found at an Esso gas station on Highway 23.

Later in the day, an erratic vehicle (described as a small grey car) was reported near New Denver. An officer found the vehicle at a hydro substation and approached the driver, who was allegedly Connell. Connell backed his car into the police vehicle and sped off down Highway 6, losing the officer.

A woman reported a driver of a grey car rear-ended her Dodge pickup truck near Silverton. When she exited her vehicle to confront him, the driver hopped inside and drove off in her truck.

The Crown said Connell then stole another vehicle in Pass Creek. Police officers tracked his location and put down a spike belt, which popped the vehicle's tires. Connell attempted to flee on foot before officers finally arrested him.

The Crown is asking for 34 months in prison for all charges, along with $4,991 in restitution to the Connell's first theft victim. Connell's defense is asking for a sentence of time served along with probation. Connell expressed regret for his actions.

"I feel extremely saddened," he said. "I completely screwed up. My parents didn't raise me that way."

Judge McParland said she needed time to render a decision. A date for the sentencing will be scheduled at Vernon court today, Dec. 13.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Sean Mott or call (250) 864-7494 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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