A missing dog was the catalyst for a brawl involving sticks, a pitchfork and a baseball bat in the small community of Coalmont in June 2014, several Crown witnesses testified in Princeton court last week.
Marianna Gatzke, the owner of a home on Columbia Street in Coalmont, and her 67-year-old father Karl Gatzke, are each on trial for assault charges stemming from the bloody street fight.
Marianna Gatzke has pleaded not guilty to assault while her father has pleaded not guilty to three counts of assault causing bodily harm.
Court heard Thursday, during the first day of the trial, that fellow Coalmont resident Adonis Barron had been irate over his missing dog and believed the Gatzkes had taken it.
The early morning calm of June 27, 2014 was shattered at the Sterne residence when Barron pounded a dent into the front door. Diane and Robert Sterne, owners of the Mosey On Inn hotel in Coalmont, often allowed Marianna Gatzke to use their internet or telephone.
The Sternes testified that Barron came to their home screaming about his dog and that he’d heard Marianna sold the animal on the internet.
“He was on a tirade yelling and screaming at us,” Robert Sterne said. “I told him, ‘if you don’t get off (our property), I’ll throw you off.’”
The Sternes stated they called 911 about the incident but were told someone from the RCMP would call them back at a later time.
Court heard from several Crown witnesses that after returning to his trailer on Columbia Street, Barron had coffee with his neighbor Penny Anguillon on her porch.
The Aguillon home is located across the street from Marianna Gatzke’s property. Penny Aguillon testified that over the 10 years they’d lived across the street from each other she and Marianna Gatzke had many problems and she’d previously called police to report being harassed by the woman.
Penny Aguillon described Barron’s behaviour as “preachy” on the morning of June 27, 2014.
“He was in preacher mode,” she explained. “He was saying things like, ‘God will judge you. Give me back my dog or God will come after you one way or another.’”
Several times that morning Barron was seen walking up and down the street in front of Marianna Gatzke’s home, shouting about his dog.
The dog had been missing for several days at that point. The Spotlight was told outside the court office that several days after the fight the dog showed up back at home and died four days later.
“How did you know he was missing a little dog,” Crown attorney John Swanson asked.
“I saw her pick it up,” Penny Aguillon testified.
Penny Aguillon also testified she heard the father and daughter talking about Barron’s dog in their yard during the time it was missing.
Several witnesses testified seeing Barron let the air out of Gatzke’s car tires that morning, while the vehicle was parked along the street.
Later that morning, while Barron was on the roadway, the Gatzkes emerged from their property carrying sticks which several witnesses described as “rough cut two-by-fours.”
After seeing the sticks Barron picked up a broken ice pick or axe handle and the fight was on.
Eye witness testimony from residents of the Aguillon home – including Penny, the grandmother, Sandra, mother, Candice, daughter and Reg Duke, Candice’s boyfriend – differed regarding how many blows were struck but all stated Barron was hit first.
“Marianna started it. She was poking and jabbing at him,” Reginald Duke said.
Duke said as Marianna Gatzke was attacking Barron from the front, Karl Gatzke was attempting to attack him from behind. When Duke realized Karl Gatzke was planning to strike Barron with the stick, using a baseball-swing to the back of the head, he decided to go down to the street and help his friend.
The heavyset man testified he yelled at Karl Gatzke to get his attention. It worked and as Karl Gatzke made his way over, Reginald Duke stated he called to the porch to have his girlfriend Candice bring him a baseball bat.
“He was coming towards me. He had the stick raised over his head ready to strike. I held the bat out to block it from hitting my head and it vibrated and fell out of my hands,” Duke said.
Duke said he then tried to steady himself in a stance so he could defend himself from Karl Gatzke, but he tripped over his slippers and pant legs and fell to the ground.
He testified Karl Gatzke then struck him four times on the forearms as he struggled to get up.
Candice Aguillon then rushed to her boyfriend’s defence. Karl Gatzke then took aim at her and struck her with the stick.
After witnessing her daughter being attacked Sandra Aguillon testified she rushed to the roadside using her cane.
She testified she was then hit several times by Karl Gatzke before she struck him hard with her cane.
Karl Gatzke then fell to the ground.
“As soon as Karl hit my daughter I saw red. I went down there. He wasn’t going to beat my daughter again,” Sandra Aguillon said.
“I told him, if he got up I’d kill him,”
Karl Gatzke then crawled to the other side of the street, the witnesses testified.
A white truck came speeding down the roadway and stopped in the street. The man inside the truck yelled for everyone to stop fighting.
RCMP Constable James Heron said he arrived in Coalmont shortly after 11 a.m. and was flagged down by people on the street and directed to go to the Mosey On Inn.
While there Heron noted several wounds on Karl Gatzke’s hands and head.
He then drove on to Columbia Street where a 911 call was made regarding the fight.
“Adonis Barron had a pitchfork and was walking around the roadway,” Const. Heron said about the scene at his arrival.
Heron described Barron as visibly agitated and upset.
After several requests from Const. Heron, Barron put down the pitchfork.
“I kept engaging with him. He was visibly so upset that I was afraid he was going to grab the pitchfork,” Heron said. “He kept talking about wanting to go inside and feed the dogs. If he was going to be arrested then he needed to go in and feed the dogs.”
Heron noted Barron had multiple injuries including a laceration above his left eye, possibly a broken finger and hand.
Going into Marianna Gatzke’s yard, Const. Heron found her sitting in a chair “bleeding profusely from the head.”
An ambulance arrived on scene shortly after.
Heron read out injuries he wrote down in his reporter notepad.
Duke sustained injuries to his left arm, small cuts, swelling, red marks. Candice Aguillon had some swelling on her arm while Sandra Aguillon had swelling on her left shoulder.
While under examination from his lawyer Karl Gatzke’s version of the events was very different from previously testimony.
Karl Gatzke testified that he and his daughter were afraid for their lives after Barron had been heard yelling outside their home that morning. The pair left the home armed with sticks to protect themselves if Barron attempted to hurt them. Karl Gatzke said the plan was to get in the vehicle and drive somewhere to make a call to police.
“They all darted out when we came out. Reg, Sandra, Candice, Penny they all ran down and grabbed their sticks,” he said.
Karl Gatzke testified Barron came at him and his daughter swinging his stick side-to-side.
Gatzke said he and his daughter were injured as they tried to block Barron from striking them.
As Barron began retreating from the fight, Karl Gatzke said he and Marianna Gatzke moved with him across the street.
“Why didn’t you just back away? You knew that if you backed away you wouldn’t be hit,” said Crown counsel John Swanson.
“We’re walking along with him. As he’s retreating he’s still swinging back and forth and we could be hit,” Karl Gatzke said.
During Karl Gatzke’s testimony he stated he never struck Sandra Aguillon, Candice Aguillon or Reginald Duke and was not sure how their injuries were caused.
Crown counsel was not able to finish his cross-examination of Karl Gatzke before the close of court on Friday.
The trial resumes March 10 in Princeton and several other witnesses are expected to testify.
The court issued a material witness warrant for Warren Spence the man believed to have driven the white truck into the street at the end of the feud.