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West Kelowna mother-beater suffered from bipolar disorder, lawyer says

Kevin Lee Barrett, 60.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Facebook
January 26, 2021 - 5:30 PM


For the 2019 beating of his elderly mother, Kevin Lee Barrett could be sentenced to anywhere from four and a half to nine years in prison, less 21 months for time already served.

Crown counsel Patricia O’Neil proposed eight to nine years during a day-long sentencing hearing Tuesday, Jan. 26, noting that the West Kelowna man’s attack of his mother Eleanor Holmes violates the basic social value that we should love and care for our elderly parents.

Whether B.C. Supreme Court Justice Steven Wilson will agree with that sentencing suggestion remains to be seen. Defence lawyer Jordan Watt argued that it is far beyond the scope of what’s reasonable when looking at the case law O’Neil submitted to make her argument and said that four and a half years was far more appropriate.

Judges are required to use case law to ensure similar crimes attract similar sentences and Watt said O’Neil relied on cases that included catastrophic injuries, confinement and people left in vegetative states. 

While Barrett’s April 29, 2019 attack of his 79-year-old mother was violent, Watt said it didn’t reach that level, noting Holmes has healed from the physical injuries she endured. He also rejected inferences in submissions that Holmes was kidnapped, noting that it’s not in the agreed statement of fact.

“We cannot rely on what may or what could have happened — we can sentence on what did happen,” he said.

Proposing a lesser sentence, Watt said Barrett has suffered from bipolar disorder since he was young. Mental illness is on both sides of his family and when he grew up, he saw alcohol abuse.

“(Barrett) describes somewhat of a fractured upbringing,” Watt said.

While Barrett racked up a long criminal record as he grew older, Watt said there were only four acts of violence on the list and the rest of his record was peppered with breaches of conditions and lesser crimes.

One of the factors not deeply explored in the case that was truncated by the early guilty plea was Barrett’s mental illness. Watt said Bipolar disorder influenced Barrett's behaviour in earlier years, especially when he imbibed. And, Watt said it was clear from RCMP and Holmes’s accounts of his manic and garbled speech in the time before the attack, he was suffering from an episode.

Watt did not suggest that Barrett should be not be found criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, which would make him exempt from criminal responsibility, however Watt said it's a factor that needs to be taken into account.

Watt also defended Barrett repeatedly deciding to not use the medications prescribed to him to keep his bipolar disorder in check and Watt indicated that may not change.

“Despite being 2021, there is a huge stigma when people have mental health issues,” Watt said. “(We’re) moving toward something better but he’s not thumbing his nose (at the system).”

He doesn’t want to take the medication because at times it’s made him sick, Watt said. He is, however, aware of his illness and said he will make decisions to keep him in better shape.

“In respect to mental health, there’s a huge stigma attached and it should not come as a surprise that individuals [who] have these issues don’t want people to know about them.”

On the evening of April 29, 2019, O'Neil said Barrett asked Holmes to drive him to an errand, because he didn't have a driver's license. On their way back, Barrett said he wanted to go on another errand and told her to stop because he was going to drive.

Holmes pulled over her vehicle near the trailer park entrance and Barrett pulled her to the passenger side of the vehicle where he began to beat her with his fists and with various objects that were inside the vehicle, including a crescent wrench. He ripped out chunks of his mom’s hair and bit her left hand so hard that she still has a scar. He also attempted to gouge out her eyes, yanked and twisted one of her legs and threw her dentures out of the vehicle, according to the statement of fact.

Barrett then is alleged to have driven his mother to a remote location on Hidden Creek Forest Service Road, while she was wrapped in a blanket.

When the vehicle stopped, he removed some of his mother’s clothing and her sandals then rolled her down the embankment … uttering the words, ‘Rest in peace, you fucking bitch.’”

Then he drove away with her purse and mobile phone. Holmes got up and eventually was spotted and taken to an ER where Dr. Jeffrey Epler took CT scans and X-rays that show she didn't suffer any broken bones during the assault.

"However, she had extensive bruising and swelling about her whole face, particularly on the left side, and bruising to her neck," O'Neil said. "She had bruises and scrapes on her abdomen, arms, legs and feet. She was missing a significant amount of hair on the left side of her scalp."

She had a bite wound, measuring two by two centimetres on the back of her left hand, which was left open to minimize the risk of infection. Her white blood cell count and lactate levels were consistent with having experienced a significant amount of physiological and psychological stress.

Barrett was arrested soon after without incident.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 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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