A man who was found guilty of aggravated assault, kidnapping and three other charges related to an attack in Hope is staying in jail. The B.C. Appeals Court released a decision Feb. 13, denying Robert Lowry’s bid for freedom.
Lowry, 50, and two other men beat up Richard Houle at a highway pullout near the Hope Garden Centre in a dispute over a marijuana grow op.
The incident happened on Aug. 1, 2016 and Lowry said the Crown never proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the third man who attacked Houle along with Edmonton Hells Angel member Neil Cantrill and his son, Stephan Cantrill.
For years leading up to the incident, Houle operated illegal marijuana grow-ops, including one at 66576 Johnson Road in the Kawkawa Lake area of Hope. He worked out a distribution arrangement with Neil Cantrill. Houle had his ‘product’ sent to Alberta where Cantrill moved it on to buyers.
Houle earned between $60,000 and $100,000 annually and didn’t pay taxes on that income. But the Johnson Road property, known as the Dogwood House was hit by a series of break-ins between 2009 and 2012, and in 2014 Houle told Cantrill that he was getting out of the business. He offered to give Cantrill some grow-op equipment.
The two men didn’t talk for two years until July of 2016 when Neil and Stephan came to Hope. The Cantrills wanted to meet, and Houle suggested a pullout near the Hope Garden Centre.
The Cantrills arrived, accompanied by Lowry, who Houle had never met. The four men walked over to some shade trees, and that’s when Neil Cantrill grabbed Houle by the throat and said, ‘So you think you can rip me off!” Cantrill accused Houle of staging the final break-in at the Dogwood House in August of 2012, before the grow-op was shut down. He said Houle owed money as “compensation for their losses” and accused him of having $1-million buried somewhere.
During the attack, Lowry hit Houle in the face and later he jumped on Houle’s back and choked him to the point where he almost lost consciousness and soiled himself. They loaded him into an SUV and continued to beat and threaten him, telling him they would “burn his dick with a hot spoon” if he didn’t meet their demands. The men took him back to his home and insisted he transfer ownership of the Dogwood House to them. They were forcing him to sign documents when police arrived.
In his appeal, Lowry suggested Houle wasn’t a credible witness and there were discrepancies between how Houle described Lowry and his actual appearance.
B.C. Appeals Court judges Fenlon, Fisher and Fitch disagreed saying Houle wasn’t expected to provide a perfect description of Lowry because he was being beaten at the time and his right eye was swollen shut. He ended up with a broken orbital bone.
Overall, they found Houle “had a good recall of many factual details” from that day, and his credibility was boosted when “he freely admitted to facts that cast him in a poor light, such as being a long-time illegal drug cultivator and a tax evader.”
A pair of jeans worn by Lowry were used as evidence in the trial, with DNA (blood) from Houle on them. Lowry suggested the jeans were tampered with and contaminated. He claimed the jeans weren’t his, suggesting they were worn by one of the Cantrills. Again, the judges disagreed.
“The design of the jeans had a horseshoe shape on the rear pockets, and were a brand called ‘True Religion,’ and Lowry was photographed wearing jeans of the same design and brand at the detachment immediately following his arrest,” Fitch wrote in the decision. “The other two accused were not photographed wearing similar jeans.”
It was also noted that Lowry was taller than the Cantrills and the jeans were “quite long,” and Fitch said there was nothing to suggest the evidence bag containing the jeans was tampered with.
“All of this evidence is sufficient for me to conclude that the jeans Lowry was wearing when arrested are the jeans entered into evidence at trial,” the judge noted.
Lowry is currently serving a nine year sentence handed to him by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ward Branch. Neil Cantrill got 10 years and Stephan Cantrill got six.