Beaten-up Charlottetown busker turning life around

Nigel Armstrong
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Chris Nettleton says he wants to apologize for his armed robbery in 2012, but that has been strangely difficult to do.

Charlottetown busker Chris Nettleton has a job, some new guitars and buckets more trouble on his plate as he struggles to turn his life around.

Nettleton was in the news in March after two men beat him up, stole his money and smashed his guitar.


That caused an outpouring of help for the man who plays some serious riffs on the corner of University Avenue and Kent Street.

With donated guitars and a crowd-sourced fund in his honour, Nettleton was turning his life around.

People helped him get settled with a P.E.I. health card, a place to live and most importantly, a job.

It was physical labour but Nettleton dove in with vigour, until one day recently, he just couldn't.

Then his name appeared on a list of most wanted issued by Charlottetown police.

Nettleton tells the Guardian he knows that Islanders either hate him, or helped him and his new message is that the help is deeply, profoundly appreciated, and all is not lost.

The trouble is, he's back busking and not working. He can't.

"I was in the hospital for a couple of weeks because of almost dying from pneumonia!" he wrote in an email to The Guardian this week. "I am unable to work for four weeks as per doctors orders but I still have my place and job, but have no money of any kind till I get working.

"(Doctors) said I had it (pneumonia) for a long time," said Nettleton. "I got sick because of the time on  the streets (busking), being exposed all winter. They were amazed at how long I fought it for.

"I was told that I almost drowned in the fluid in my lungs and have to be very careful that I shouldn't busk but I don't have a choice,"

He continues to have people lining up to either help him, or hate him.

Those that hate him are friends, family and supporters of a young clerk at a store that Nettleton robbed in October 2012. She still hasn't received a letter of apology.

Those that are helping are drawn into the drama of Nettleton's life.

Nettleton has been living a drug-addicted, drifters life across Canada for years, making his way to P.E.I. from Halifax in 2012.

Years ago he had been a semi-professional touring musician performing opening acts for David User, the band 54-40 and for Brian Byrne of I Mother Earth. Then addictions took hold.

"Unfortunately it ended in disaster, both for myself and the young lady working," he said of his 2012 robbery in Charlottetown.

Nettleton said he wrote a letter of apology while in jail but was advised to let his lawyer handle it's delivery. That never happened, said Nettleton.

He called his actions heinous, says he is still working getting the apology to the victim, and that his actions will haunt him forever.

After the Guardian published the news story of his smashed face and smashed guitar this past March, support started arriving.

People gave him guitars and told him to do what he needed. Some he sold, some he gave away,

He received a spectacular guitar, a Seagull acoustic electric that he figures was worth around $700. He found the owner and returned it.

Agents for Ron Sexsmith and Brian Byrne also attempted to get in touch with Nettleton to give him a guitar, but he didn't pursue that because the Island community was already getting him on track, he said.

"I don't know if it was God putting his finger on my heart, because I can't say I'm fully there yet, but out of nowhere, I just broke down," said Nettleton of one day in church. "That kind of opened the door for me because I felt something there."

Being in a church community now helps him enjoy the company of "good, clean, safe people," he said. From that church community came a job.

Jodi Morrissey LeBlanc ran a successful crowd-funding program for Nettleton on titled "Help Chris get his sound back".

"She took me up to Long & McQuade and bought me a beautiful Fender acoustic electric guitar with all the bells and whistles and a case," he said.

He later learned that people where on social media giving her grief for the help she offered.

"My life doesn't need to be public," said Nettleton last month. "The main reason I'm doing this interview is for the people that stepped up and helped me out, went out of their way to dig me out of the muck I was in.

"I want all these people to know that their efforts are not in vain," he said. "I have taken every bit, and I have turned it into a productive, safe, drug-free, solid life.

"I have a place to live. I have a job. I have a P.E.I. health card.

"I am starting to relax a little bit, kind of enjoy life," he said while talking to The Guardian in May.

On a ride into town he noticed the white blooms of a magnolia tree.

"Four months ago I wouldn't have noticed that because my mind was so cluttered with everything else," said Nettleton. "Now I'm taking the time to notice those things."

Organizations: Charlottetown Police Services, Christian ministry, First Baptist Church Community Legal Information Association of P.E.I.

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Iceland, P.E.I. Canada Sleepy Hollow Ottawa Long McQuade

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Recent comments

  • Darth Stalin
    January 08, 2016 - 23:21

    Is he going to pay everyone back?

  • Nevetr black and white
    June 18, 2014 - 07:43

    Wasvsurfing his name and found a bunch of music..i dig it.. If you can sit through a grunge ballad listen to his lyrics...dude is in/was? PAIN. Mp3s

  • Nettleton is pulling the wool over everyones eyes and The Guardian is helping him.
    June 14, 2014 - 13:41

    Instead of him putting his money in the bank for himself he should be paying back all his victims

  • Islander girl
    June 13, 2014 - 11:02

    So he got help got a job then got sick has no job and wants help again?? There r many ppl that need help that r not in the paper asking for it...I have an illness that will never go away just gets worst I've had it a few yr now, have also had major stomach surgery and ankle surgery and am only 30 like I said had this many yrs and couldn't get disability cuz not enough Cpp paid in with in four yrs ...everyone has money problems ,health problem and have not robbed someone and we r not getting help and in the paper....this man needs to man up stop trying to live off others

  • HelperWho
    June 13, 2014 - 05:37

    This poor man has been through so much. I saw him periodically throughout the winter, first his guitar got stolen while he was in the washroom, then he got another guitar which he slipped and broke, and then he got beaten up for his guitar!

  • Find Facts
    June 13, 2014 - 05:17

    I googled Mr Nettleton thinking that if this man played and opened for bands, I should be able to find some verification. I had no luck? If anyone else finds it could you please post it?

  • Krista Giddings
    June 13, 2014 - 01:02

    Nigel Armstrong, I appreciate your covering this guys story but I would like to know what authority you have in stating (twice in fact) that he is hated by the victim and their family, friends, and supporters. I am a close family member to the victim and don't recall you asking me how I felt or any of my family members including the victim. In fact she was quite compassionate towards mr. Nettleton. I would appreciate it if you would stick to the facts and refrain from stroking dramatic effect for your paper by misrepresenting the victim, her family and friends. Thank you. Krista

  • kris
    June 12, 2014 - 20:30

    so tired of seeing his face in the paper, How about you dedicate some time and space to good honest hardworking citizens that don't abuse drugs or commit crimes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! so frustrating!!

  • peggy
    June 12, 2014 - 20:17

    Please cease this pandering attention to a sad excuse for a human being. Nigel Armstrong "you are honoured "? Get serious. There are so many good people in this community who do good for others and seek nothing. This guy and the others who bum money from people are dregs on society. " I have a place to live, I have a job, I have a PEI health card." Shove it.

  • a guy
    June 12, 2014 - 19:14

    I know for a fact he's full of (it). A friend of mine lent him a guitar to use until he had enough money to buy his own. My buddy comes back to get his guitar and keeps getting excuses. He ended up pawning it. Well the guitar wasn't yours to pawn. And your not that good of a musician anyways. Join the army.

    • LA
      June 12, 2014 - 22:16

      He can't. The army doesn't take people with violent criminal records and health/addiction issues. That is one of the long-lasting effects of allowing oneself to fall into substance abuse. I am all for giving deserving people second chances, but the public are entitled to be frustrated with all the attention one person's melodrama gets, and they are not obligated to consider him some sort of hero. I did find his statement very revealing - "unfortunately it ended in disaster for myself and the young lady". He not only puts himself first on the victim list, but unconsciously refers to the episode as if it were somehow beyond his control - not "what I did", but "what happened". However I wish him well in his newly clean life, thanks to the kindness of the public, and hope it continues. It's a testament to the inherent strength of both parties. I try to be balanced because nothing is black and white and neither is this story.

  • Yoddy Vavvy
    June 12, 2014 - 18:13

    Compassion seems to be in short supply amongst the carnal flock. And if thine eye offend thee .....

  • Dear Nigel
    June 12, 2014 - 17:15

    Thank you for clarifying that you are honoured to wave the flag for this criminal so his victims feel they are again taken advantage of by his actions. You made it easy for me to not renew my Guardian subscription when it runs out. At times your spelling and grammar in many of your articles is atrocious and your position of 15 minutes of fame articles instead of focusing on the positive people of our good Island or the facts is a poor representation of true journalism. I guess having a story which gets the most comments, shares and reads is more important then the story itself.

    • Jason Dancy
      June 12, 2014 - 18:42

      I don't normally have an issue with anonymous comments. I have posted anonymously myself. But if you are going to challenge someone who stands behind what he writes using his own name, then you should find your own spine and do the same.

  • Scott Ward
    June 12, 2014 - 16:47

    Typical Islander conments, always complaining about something. Has any one of you actually took the time to stop and talk to Chris? No probably not. Well if you did you would realize that hes really a good down to earth person and will tell you straight up that he messed up in the past. He's human just like the rest of you armchair warriors that hide behind a screen name, and have all made mistakes in the past. Everyone is always so quick to judge. Glad to hear that things are looking up Chris!

  • justin
    June 12, 2014 - 15:05

    This guy must be sleeping with the Guardian staffer. he gets more print time then the Prime Minister. If all it takes to get print in the Guardian is to say you are reformed person then the Guardian should be full of people. Obviously this guy is doing more for the reporter then just being reformed or else is it a REALLY slow news day.

    • Nigel Armstrong
      June 12, 2014 - 16:28

      I am honoured to bring to our readers the story of Chris Nettleton, honoured he allows me to tell it. - Forgiveness and redemption are every bit as interesting as guilt and conviction to me. - We all need hope. - Chris tells us he needed help and appreciated all that he received. - We all need help. - For me this is a story of heroes, the kind we all need to be. - I am grateful we can share in Chris's journey, and God is powerfully involved in the lives of those who are helping him. - Who am I to argue with that? - There are many people on P.E.I. who are in the grip of the very issues that affect Chris. - Every one of us is watching with hope, and Chris is strong in coping with all this attention which he did not seek. - The Guardian approached him, not the other way around. - We are all suspicious of where this story is headed. - It is an epic battle of hope, redemption, suspicion, cynicism, courage, perseverance and faith. - I plan to write more about Chris, as much as I am able, God willing.

    • Danny
      June 12, 2014 - 16:35

      Nigel, when Mr. Nettleton apologizes to that young lady he victimized, then i will have time for his story.

    • How about
      June 12, 2014 - 17:21

      How about you dedicate some time and space to good honest hardworking citizens that don't abuse drugs or commit crimes but go to work everyday, pay their taxes to support those that refuse to work or pay their share. You know, the type of people that take responsibility for their own actions, volunteer in their communities and live their lives quietly as role models without seeking any praise or self glorification.

    • Mitch
      June 12, 2014 - 22:11

      It is sad that so many people fall for this guys BS. He is the type of person who will continue to tell sad stories about himself and how he is just trying to get back on his feet just to keep the charity coming. I have time for people who fall on hard times and work to get themselves out of it, not people who put themselves in it and then hunt charity. My guess is that he was never attacked, just another scam. Nigel, not only are you a hack for a "journalist" but you are also terribly naive if you believe the garbage that he is feeding you.

  • Wolf of Queen Street
    June 12, 2014 - 14:35

    Can we stop enabling this guy via Guardian articles now?

    • Wow
      June 12, 2014 - 15:15

      I agree! Can we get on with someone much more deserving please. Tired of seeing his mug (pardon the pun) on my computer.

    • agree
      June 12, 2014 - 17:19

      Couldnt agree more!!!

  • violins
    June 12, 2014 - 14:24

    so has he ever dealt with his outstanding robbery charges? If he wants to turn his life around, that would be a good place to start - take responsibility for his actions.

  • Begging Pan Handler
    June 12, 2014 - 14:20

    I am sitting here, frustrated to the point I have to respond. Firstly, Mr. Nettleton was alledgedly assaulted. He did not file a police report, we now know likely because he knew he was wanted. That was due to his in action. Do we know if this really happened, except for his word. I know he is such a trusting bloke, so we must believe him. Secondly, it is not just the victim of your crime who hates you, I would like to toss my hat in the ring. I am sick and tired of those who blame everyone else for their failing, instead of owning up to their actions or lack there of. If you are truly turning your life around, do it and stop looking for a pat on the back. When you commit a crime in the community, you make all of us victims.It isn't so easily corrected by saying, Whoops, my bad." Thirdly, if your life doesn't need to be public, why do you continuously seek your 15 minutes of fame in the media? Why doesn't the Guardian continue to allow this story to run? And finally, when will the City of Charlottetown make it illegal to panhandle in Charlottetown so I can walk from Kent Street to the end of Queen Street without being asked for change? Some of these people are blocking sidewalks, driving business away and tarnishing our City. There are two individuals who are very intimidating. About time these people start paying a fee to busker on the corners. I would like to know if Mr. Nettleton is paying taxes on his income, the gifts he has been given and I wonder if his payment to Victims of Crimes was ever made? If you really are turning your life around, do it. And get over yourself. You are a victim of your own actions and we, the public, are getting tired of your song and dance.