The father and daughter charged with multiple counts of assault stemming from a June 2014 feud involving a pitchfork, baseball bat, and large sticks have been found not-guilty.
Provincial Court Judge Gregory Koturbash read out his verdict Friday at the Princeton courthouse, concluding four days of trial spread over two months.
The Princeton courthouse is a circuit court that only sits two days a month.
Judge Koturbash said he had reasonable doubt regarding the assault charges against Marianna Gatzke and Karl Gatzke
Marianna Gatzke was charged with assaulting Adonis Barron in the bloody street fight in Coalmont on June 27, 2014. Her father Karl Gatzke was charged with assaulting several of the neighbours across the street including Sandra Aguillon, Candice Aguillon and Reginald Duke.
Throughout the trial the court heard several versions of what occurred that morning, but Koturbash found the behaviour of Barron “confrontational” and “aggressive,” he said during his judgement.
Barron had been irate over his missing dog and believed the Gatzkes had taken it.
Earlier that morning, before the fight broke out, Barron had attended the Mosey On Inn in Coalmont and yelled and threatened the owners because they allowed Marianna Gatzke to use their internet.
He believed that Marianna had sold his dog on the internet.
Several witnesses including Penny, Sandra and Candice Aguillon, Duke, and Marianna Gatzke and Karl Gatzke testified that Barron spent portions of the morning walking up and down the street screaming at the Gatzkes through their gate.
A short video was played during Marianna Gatzke’s testimony of Barron screaming from the roadway.
“I’m going to mace you,” could be clearly heard in the video along with several other aggressive statements.
Several witnesses testified that they saw Barron let the air out the tires of Karl Gatzke’s vehicle.
“It’s at this point that all the stories of the witnesses begin to collide,” Koturbash said.
The Gatzkes claim they feared for their lives so they felt it necessary to leave the home in search of a telephone to call police to stop Barron’s escalating behaviour.
Once they realized the front gate had been broken they decided to arm themselves with weapons to ensure they would safely get to their vehicle.
Although Crown counsel John Swanson provided a scenario that the Gatzke’s were the aggressor’s and taunted Barron into the fight by coming out with 2X4 pieces of wood. Swanson asked Marianna and Karl repeatedly during cross-examination why they didn’t retreat back into their home when Barron picked up a pick axe handle.
Both provided similar answers of being confused and Marianna Gatzke also said she did not want to leave her then 72-year-old father in the roadway to defend himself.
“I agree with C. Walker (Marianna Gatzke’s defence counsel) that retreat was not a reasonable option. Mr. Barron had already damaged their property and was advancing,” Koturbash stated.
Adonis Barron did not testify in the court case, as is his right as the victim.
RCMP Const. James Heron earlier testified that Barron was so agitated when he arrived on-scene that he feared for his own safety.
Barron had a pitchfork and was walking around the roadway when Heron arrived after the fight was over.
Heron described Barron as visibly agitated and upset in his testimony earlier in the trial.
“I kept engaging with him. He was visibly so upset that I was afraid he was going to grab the pitchfork,” Heron said.
Sgt. Barry Kennedy from the Princeton RCMP detachment said the judge had come up with a logical verdict.
“I think the judge went through all the evidence as presented and came up with a decision based on that evidence. The way he presented it in the end, I can see how he came up with his verdict,” he said.
For several years the small community of Coalmont has had ongoing problems that have used a lot of Princeton’s policing resources because of neighbour disputes and minor incidents.
Kennedy said things have quieted down in the community over the last year.
“I would hope that everyone learned from this procedure. If they choose to continue to go through with all this we will go through this again,” Kennedy said following the verdict Friday. “I am hoping they all realize this is a lot of work.”
Karl Gatzke will next appear in court in October to answer to serious charges of uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm, causing disturbance, criminal harassment and criminal harassment – threatening conduct.