Man uses sledghammer to break into home, get ice cream, chips

Ryan Ross
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Scales of justice

Mental health in question as man tells of sleeping in outhouse

A Charlottetown man who used a sledgehammer to break into a house and steal food after he had been sleeping in an outhouse while absent from the Hillsborough Hospital will be spending time in jail.

John Darryl Gunning, 42, appeared before Judge Nancy Orr in provincial court in Charlottetown Wednesday for sentencing after previously pleading guilty to several charges, including breaking into several buildings and stealing a vehicle.

Orr sentenced Gunning, who had been in custody for 79 days, to an additional 67 days in jail after giving him credit for the time he already served.

Gunning had previously been scheduled for sentencing, but when he exhibited suicidal behaviour he was sent to Halifax for an assessment where it was determined he was fit to stand trial.

The court heard Gunning was missing from the Hillsborough Hospital in May when he stole a van that had the keys left in it and used it to steal candy from the Brackley Drive-in Theatre.

He later stole a second vehicle from the same home before police caught him.

In September, Gunning used a sledgehammer to smash the doorknob off a house where he ate ice cream, chips and had some non-alcoholic drinks.

The homeowner came home while he was still inside and called the police.

Gunning told the police he had been sleeping in an outhouse next to the Confederation Trail and had been homeless since leaving the Hillsborough Hospital a second time.

The Crown and defence lawyers had concerns about his mental health before his previous scheduled court date for sentencing and he was sent to Halifax for the assessment.

Crown attorney Jeff MacDonald said Gunning’s crimes were serious and the victim of the home invasion has left her house out of fear.

Gunning’s lawyer, Clare Henderson, said her client spent two months at Hillsborough Hospital and another month in Prince County Hospital’s psychiatric ward.

She said Gunning has been working to find an appropriate place to live.

Before handing down a sentence, Orr said the psychiatric assessment was useful, but while Gunning certainly had mental health issues, he told several people he had bi-polar disorder, which was inconsistent with reports on him.

Lots of people offered him help, Orr said, but he was unwilling to take it.

In addressing Gunning’s offences, Orr said it was fortunate the homeowner showed good judgment and called the police before she went inside.

“It could have been a very serious or very dangerous situation,” she said.

Orr said she was satisfied Gunning clearly knew what he was doing, he understood it was wrong and knew there would be consequences.

Along with the jail time, Gunning will be on probation for three years after his release and is banned from driving during that period.

Orr also ordered him to write apology letters to the victims and pay $705.18 to the homeowner.

rross@theguardian.pe.ca

twitter.com/ryanrross

Organizations: Hillsborough Hospital, Prince County Hospital

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Halifax

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  • UPWESTER
    December 15, 2013 - 09:32

    If his actions don't confirm that he is mentally incompetent,I don't know how you would ever establish that someone is insane.Maybe now that we have three new pschyatrists on the Island, one of them will have time to see this man and certify him. Absolutely discusting the way people with mental health issues are treated on the Gentle Island, especially by our court sysytem, who only want to get rid of them by sending them to jail instead of to a mental institute. Oh right, we don't have any room at our mental institute.

  • Guinness World Record?
    December 14, 2013 - 11:39

    Man, I've heard of getting the munchies before, but using a sledgehammer to get some chips?

  • Something Has To Be Done
    December 14, 2013 - 10:32

    As a senior with health problems , I live in fear of this far to common house invasion's that appear to be happening a lot over the last few years . For this lady to have to leave her home because of fear is just not right . These people don't seem to be getting punishment to fit the crime of what they are doing . There is really something wrong with our system , older people cannot fight off these young men , if you buy a guard dog & they bite the invader , your dog is killed , you are not allowed to shoot them or you go to jail & they are felt bad for . The police cannot respond if they are in your house & you cannot call & even if you do call ,they can't get there in time . It's to late after you are down with heart attack . The judges are not looking at this crime with the honest peoples welfare in mind . IT' TIME FOR THE LAW TO BE CHANGED , if a couple of these no good home invaders got shot , it wouldn't take long for the rest of these bum's to think twice before bulling & robbing the older folks . Reading these stories make me sick as I believe my life is first & foremost on or in the property that I bought & paid for & still pay taxes on . Am I alone thinking this way ?????????????

    • Star Bangled Bull . . .
      December 14, 2013 - 13:16

      To answer the question at the end of your rant, I hope so.