Haliburton man Norman Hart has said he feels sadness and remorse over the part he played in the 2019 death of housemate Robert James Brown.
Appearing in a Lindsay courtroom March 31, Hart said his life has been “a rollercoaster of mixed feelings and emotions” over the past 18 months, and that he is haunted by the events that took place at a residence on Highland Street on June 17, 2019.
Hart killed Brown after the pair got into an argument over the distribution of a $500 cheque from the Kawartha Lakes-Haliburton Housing Corporation. A confrontation at their shared home became physical, with Hart, who was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine, delivering a savage beating to Brown before leaving him to die.
Hart was found guilty of manslaughter on Sept. 7, 2021.
“The death of Robert Brown is something that I strongly wish I could, but cannot change… This is something that did not need to happen,” Hart told the court. “At this time, I was living in a drug-induced daze of fear and paranoia. Oppressive clouds of anger and bitterness overshadowed my every thought … I was completely gone [and] self-destructive.”
He apologized for allowing his anger to get the better of him. Speaking directly to Brown’s daughter, Nichole Erickson, who was in attendance, Hart said, “it pains me to know that Robert’s children will not get a chance to say goodbye to his face, and that Robert will not be there to support them through life’s battles.”
An emotional Erickson said her life has been in complete disarray since her father’s death.
“I experienced grief so raw in the immediate aftermath, I wasn’t sure how or if I would get past those months. I had flashbacks of my father and asked myself time and again, why did this happen? Why was his life cut short so suddenly,” Erickson told the court. “I struggle with the idea that my dad died alone in his home without the comfort of a hand to hold, and I am plagued with thoughts of how scared he would have been in his last moments. These are feelings that will never go away.”
Erickson said she has been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder since her father’s death, which has prevented her from working and pursuing further education.
Second sentencing hearing scheduled for next month
Crown prosecutor Rebecca Griffin read a written statement submitted by Brown’s sister, Tammy McCafferty. She said her relationship with her brother had been strained over the years, and they had often gone years without speaking. Seeking to reconcile, McCafferty reached out to Brown over social media last Christmas, only to learn he had passed away.
“I was extremely overwhelmed with grief and anger, lost in an empty and foggy world … The brother who stood up for me and helped pave my path, my protector, was gone,” McCafferty wrote. “I have questions about that fateful day… I will never know how a human being can get so angry that they feel someone has to die.”
Addressing Justice Michelle Fuerst, Griffin said she is seeking a prison sentence of nine to 10 years, minus time already served. Defence lawyer Rob Chartier argued that, in light of Hart’s efforts to better himself while incarcerated, which has included completing drug and alcohol rehabilitation courses, and earning his secondary school diploma, a sentencing of between six-and-a-half and seven-and-a-half years would be more appropriate.
Fuerst said she needed time to make a final determination. A second sentencing hearing has been scheduled for May 9.