One of three attackers who mutilated a gang associate who was co-operating with police — carving “rat” into his chest — has been ordered to spend six years in a federal prison.
Ricky Dennis and Jeremy Bellows were convicted in June following a trial in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops on charges of aggravated assault and witness intimidation. Dennis was sentenced on Thursday (Oct. 29).
The court heard Dennis and Bellows stormed into the North Kamloops home of Matthew Carstairs on Aug. 21, 2018, with a plan to beat and mutilate the 29-year-old drug dealer. Carstairs had been co-operating with police investigating an unrelated shooting, earning himself the title of snitch among his criminal counterparts.
At trial, court heard Carstairs was given three options for punishment — have the fingers of one hand severed, have the word “rat” burned into his flesh or have the word “rat” cut into his chest. Carstairs chose the latter and the mutilation was carried out.
“It was to provoke a state of fear and the intention was to impede him in his testimony,” Crown prosecutor Sarah Firestone said. “The beating, in fact, had its intended effect temporarily, in that Mr. Carstairs initially declined to give police a full statement.”
Dennis, Bellows and a third alleged attacker, Shane Cameron, were described in court as gangland enforcers led by Cameron.
Firestone said the attack on Carstairs was especially gruesome.
“This was an extremely violent and shocking assault, not only involving a beating, but a mutilation,” she said. “These are long-lasting injuries in terms of leaving scars on his body … simply for having that label — rat.”
Carstairs testified against Dennis and Bellows at trial. He also testified last year in the trial of the suspect in the shooting he helped police investigate.
Sheldon Tate, Dennis’ defence lawyer, said his client had an “atrocious” upbringing. He was raised by his grandparents in Fort St. James and his mother was murdered when he was a teenager.
Tate said Dennis has a good job lined up for when his incarceration ends, work that will take him away from Kamloops and his criminal connections. Dennis said he’s looking forward to a fresh start after prison.
“I just want to say I do really want to be on the streets and I am working on starting my life now,” the 34-year-old said. “I just want to get my family back and I think this is the way to do it. I just want to throw that out there.”
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Dev Dley sentenced Dennis to six years in a federal penitentiary.
“There is no question that, although Mr. Cameron was the leader, the entire group was involved in the enterprise,” he said. “It was also apparent that the purpose of the beating was to deliver a message to Mr. Carstairs not to co-operate with the police and to deliver a message in general that to co-operate with the police was not a healthy choice.”
After being given credit for time served, Dennis has about 33 months left to spend behind bars.
Bellows will be sentenced at a later date. Last year, Cameron pleaded guilty to his charges stemming from the incident.