UPDATED: Dustin Paxton has been declared a dangerous offender today. That means he will be jailed indefinitely.
He offered no apology, but he did say:
“I’m working with these experts who are working to make me a better person,” he said. “I will remain fully committed to a regime of counselling and programming that is essential to my rehabilitation.”
This is one of the most twisted cases with bizarre cast of characters I’ve ever written about. I’m reposting a verdict and feature story I wrote last year. An editor took out an important paragraph that included Paxton’s previous charges and convictions. I’ve added it back in bold below.
FEBRUARY 2012 Well, he may have come in laughing and shaking hands, but Dustin Paxton left Court of Queen’s Bench pretty pissed off today.
Paxton, 32, has been found guilty of aggravated and sexual assault against his roommate and business partner, and two separate charges of assault with a weapon and uttering threats against an employee.
He was acquitted on a charge of unlawful confinement.
Watching Paxton react to Madame Justice Sheilah Martin’s FIVE HOUR LONG ruling (when we weren’t tweeting and taking notes, that is) was a trip.
Dude was stormy. Shaking his head in disagreement with every detail against him, including using sex as another weapon of assault against his 28-year-old victim, who is recovering in Victoria, B.C.
Paxton denies everything and all evidence against him.
You can see his police interview above and my story about the path that led him to his victim below.
FEB. 6, 2012
Worn from the three-hour drive north to Edmonton, Calgary detectives Doug Crippen and Bryan Rowe were wide awake and ready to interrogate Dustin Paxton, even though it was 1:30 a.m.
They faced off across a metal table inside a stark police interview room roughly the size of a cell.
“OK, Dustin. I want to make sure we get off on the right foot here,” said Crippen. He needed to build rapport with the man he believed responsible for confining, disfiguring and torturing a roommate nearly twice his size.
“Well, so do I, OK?” said Paxton. “We were together for a long time, me and him. And we’ve been through a lot of time, good time, bad time together.”
Crippen nodded, urging Paxton’s story along.
“What you’re talking about and what this news is talking about and what all these f-kin’ people that are supposed to be my friends and my family are f-kin’ talking about is bullsh-,” Paxton told him. “This guy was never f-kin’ held hostage. This guy was never f-kin’ tortured.”
The victim’s shrunken, broken body, smashed face and brain injury told a different story.
A judge will decide this afternoon whether Paxton is guilty of aggravated assault, sexual assault and unlawful confinement.
Four months after Paxton’s badly beaten roommate was abandoned unconscious and emaciated at a Regina hospital April 16, 2010, Paxton’s dramatic arrest in an Edmonton suburb ended a manhunt. In the videotaped police interview, which was played in court, Crippen needed his prime suspect to confess.
“Then tell me, Dustin, tell me right here, right now. This is your opportunity. Explain those injuries to him,” Crippen demanded.
“Where that’s gonna happen, and where it’s gonna have to happen, is in a courtroom, my friend.”
The interrogation went in circles like this for nearly three hours on Aug. 26, 2010.
Crippen pushed forward a gruesome photograph of Paxton’s disfigured friend; teeth splayed, lower lip missing, cauliflowered ears, angry red cuts and bruises. His blue eyes were unfocused and a breathing tube sprouted from his smashed nose. His shrivelled looks suggested a dying cancer patient.
“Dustin, look at him. This is how he showed up at the Regina hospital. Look at the damage to his face. Is this somebody that you love?”
“Yes, I do see,” Paxton said. “Yeah, it is somebody that I love.”
The detective believed there was more to the story, but Paxton kept stopping.
Pointing to binders holding nearly 57 witness statements and his 49,000-word-report, Crippen shook his head and asked Paxton for the truth.
“Listen. There is one true story,” said Paxton. “I love him like a brother. I always will.”
Paxton paints his 1980s Manitoba childhood as tumultuous.
Known as a bright and funny boy, “Dusty” was also unusually fastidious, keeping his appearance “immaculate,” a relative says.
It would take years until he was offered medication for schizophrenia.
His parents split early, leaving Paxton and his older sister in the care of their father, a former military man.
“I don’t know what happened to my parents. They uh, uh, they don’t speak to me,” Paxton told police.
By age 12, Paxton says he was disowned for acting up and placed in the care of children’s services in the early 1990s.
“My dad called them on me. I forget what that incident was. There was a stain on the bottom of the iron. I forget why,” Paxton said. “He was trying to take on a lot for a young guy and I think it was too much for him to handle and I think that’s why he hung up the gloves when it came to me.”
Paxton claims he was disciplined at home “severely,” but his father was “a young guy with a lot on his shoulders and yet I think he did a very good job.”
Before long, Paxton was under the strict military-style rule at a youth boot camp.
Drugs, alcohol and mischief followed him into his teens, relatives say.
In his 20s, Paxton racked up a lengthy criminal record with dozens of charges in Winnipeg and Edmonton for theft, assault with a weapon, stealing credit cards, and impersonation. He was known as a street smart con-artist who was often wanted by police for breaching court-ordered probation conditions. Among them were failing to do psychiatric and psychological counselling, and not providing a proper home address when he moved in 2006.
“I’ve been wanted and on the run for years, my friend,” Paxton told police during his interrogation. “I don’t think I’ve had a free day in my life since I was f-kin’ 12. I’ve been all over Canada, several times back and forth. It’s a stressful and strenuous lifestyle . . . There is no calling up mom and dad. There is no calling up sister or brother or grandma or grandpa and saying, ‘I’m hungry, I quit, I wanna come home. I’ll be good now.’ There is none of that.”
Family is what Paxton was missing.
He found it in a blood brother, who would later become his accuser, he met on the streets of Winnipeg.
They met through mutual drug-addled friends and both loved to party, Paxton’s trial heard. Paxton’s friend had similarly been on his own since the age of 16.
“When I got to hang out with him, we’re usually smoking a joint and watching something funny and giggling together, you know what I mean?” Paxton told police.
“When I first met him, he was one of the most honest people I had met. I used to look up to him. He used to be my role model, OK. You know, he was an honest guy. He worked. He loved his daughter. He loved his family. You know, he would get up every morning and he would go to work at 4: 30 in the morning and this guy loved his work . . . It’s all I ever wanted was just some sort of normalcy and that’s what I envied about him. He had this normalness to him.”
Before long, Paxton moved to Calgary. He found work setting up haunted houses at Canada Olympic Park for ScreamFest just before Halloween.
When he learned his friend was going through a painful breakup back in Winnipeg, Paxton told him to come to Calgary.
The man took Paxton up on his offer. He quit his job as a forklift operator, boarded a flight to Calgary, and took a taxi straight to Paxton on Oct. 31.
That night, court heard Paxton beat his friend over the head with a steel-toed boot. The reason? He backed a folding chair over an electrical cord.
They ended up spending the next 17 months together, a period when Paxton is accused of beating him several more times.
With the alleged Halloween beating behind them and apologies made and accepted, the two men moved into a rental house on 42nd Avenue and Centre Street N. and started a business. Two Guys and a Truck was a furniture moving company started with $60 and a payday loan. Paxton worried about some arrest warrants, so the company was registered under his friend’s name, court heard. Within six months, business was booming. They had four moving trucks and were picking up day labourers.
Paxton insisted the men were equal partners.
“It was supposed to be a buddy thing. You know, it was supposed to be your friends together everyday . . . and achieving something that nobody else could achieve together,” Paxton told police.
Running the business from his home computer while his friend handled the heavy labour gave Paxton a chance to go straight and earn a legitimate living, offering “a good quality service to show who we were and what we were capable of, not as movers, as human beings . . . This was for us to shine, to be the best that we could be.
“We were in this to succeed, not to fail, not to look like idiots to everybody back in Winnipeg or on the streets who thought that we were from the trenches, kicking in doors and selling f-kin’ grams . . . we weren’t these people. We were a higher calibre people, all right, and we did this from scratch.”
The moving business also became the reason for black eyes, broken ribs and internal injuries that Paxton’s friend was seen frequently suffering from. Falling freezers and pizza ovens were blamed for the man’s near constant injuries and a two-month hospital stay, customers and friends were told. By the end of January 2009, the shocking sight of the man’s swollen, bruised face and missing lower lip caused one customer to cry. The man lied and said he was a boxer.
Other young men would come forward to accuse Paxton of beating them with a bamboo stick and broken dog leash. Paxton would only say he was a tough and exacting boss.
“I think a lot of people think I’m an asshole and it’s just not the case. I’m actually the most caring person that I know . . . Yeah, in the end I had to take charge of the situation, only a situation that was out of control . . . It was getting, it was getting chaotic.”
The chaos came after an argument with workers over money. Paxton and his roommate cooked up a plan to flee Calgary for Winnipeg. In midFebruary 2010, they staged a break-in and filed a phoney insurance claim.
They stayed in Calgary motels and made their way to Saskatchewan.
While the pair were holed up in a Regina apartment and cut off from worried friends and family in March 2010, Paxton says his friend’s health mysteriously went downhill.
So did the money. “Being locked up in an apartment with him, fixing his wounds and stuff like that 16 hours a day – there’s no money coming in. I got drained of everything,” Paxton said.
When detectives asked how Paxton’s friend was injured, Paxton would only say “he was weird” and would fall to his knees unprovoked.
“At the time, he wasn’t talking. Or he wasn’t saying much when he was speaking. I spent a good two and a half weeks there half hoping that he was gonna snap out of it . . . He was so f-kin’ out of it and gone he should have been in a hospital from the beginning. Unfortunately, with everybody chasing us, we couldn’t.”
Paxton calmly described how helpless his injured friend had become. “He had to wear diapers. He was pissing and shitting the bed four, five times a day. I had to do laundry three times. I cleaned him up every single day. He had bed pads. Everything was set up to help this guy get better so he could get home and see his daughter. That was our ultimate goal. We saw him deteriorating every day. He would not get better.”
Who’s we? asked police. “Me and him,” he responded.
Paxton painted himself as caregiver rather than tormentor.
“He had no lips. He had no nothing and he couldn’t eat. So I had to feed him. I fed him soup. I fed him Boost. I fed him everything that I possibly could that he could keep down. And that’s where he lost the weight from, not from being starved.”
Police confronted Paxton with sex abuse allegations.
“This guy was never, ever sexually molested . . . there was no sexual contact between me and (him), not even the cleaning of his diapers was there any contact with him. I wiped his friggin’ body with towels, that’s it. I did not like to touch him, I did not like to see him without any friggin’ clothes on, never mind perform sexual acts. I’m a straight man. It wouldn’t even do anything for me. I would get it from a female and not from a guy and not from a hurt guy.”
Paxton said he was baffled how his clumsy friend kept getting hurt.
“There was something amiss in this guy’s head. OK, and I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was ’cause I could have a conversation with him.”
“By the time I was done with him,” Paxton said nonchalantly, “I had no idea who he was.”
On April 16, 2010, Paxton loaded his unconscious, braininjured friend into a car and delivered him to the hospital.
“Right up to the time that I had to leave his side, I saw something in him that nobody else was seeing, and it was in his eyes,” Paxton told police in the hours before he was formally charged.
“This guy kept me holding on ’till the very end with a glimmer of hope that the same guy was still in there . . . And it was that he was normal and he was the guy that I f-kin’ knew when I first met him. You could see a glimmer of hope.”