LLOYDMINSTER - A Lloydminster house long rumoured in the area as having a "torture chamber" had that description confirmed in Saskatchewan provincial court on Jan. 13.
"What was described to me is a torture chamber,” said North Battleford Judge Kevin Hill in Lloydminster Circuit Court as he sentenced 38-year-old Jason Palsich on a charge of forcible confinement.
The existence of the torture chamber unfolded when Rick Thorne escaped after he was bound to a chair, threatened to have his kneecaps broken, and a bat swung at his face.
North Battleford prosecutor Charlotte Morden told the court that the owner of the house – a known drug dealer – forced Palsich to bind Thorne to a chair with duct tape.
In disbelief, Palsich asked him if he was serious, court heard.
“Yes I’m f
At the time, Palsich was staying at the house in his transient lifestyle couch surfing and feared for his safety, so he complied, the court heard in a joint submission between the Crown and defence. The homeowner gave transient and homeless people “a warm place to stay and drugs,” said Morden.
Thorne was the only witness to show up in court, three times. Morden told the court that the trial was set two times previously but didn’t proceed and Thorne showed up each time.
“Thorne, very much to his credit, appeared three times now. Thorne was the only witness who attended. None of the other witnesses attended. It’s extremely clear on the whole of the evidence and comments from various witnesses they are afraid of [the homeowner].”
That fear surged through Palsich when he was ordered to bind Thorne, the court heard.
“There were some elements of duress here,” said Morden. “Palsich was afraid he would be assaulted that day.”
After Thorne was bound to the chair, with the use of a laptop, the homeowner tried extracting Thorne’s banking information from him to steal his pension, the court heard.
Palsich was arrested in August 2020 and charged with forcible confinement, assault with a weapon, uttering threats, robbery with a weapon, and extortion. On Thursday he pleaded guilty to forcible confinement and the remaining charges were withdrawn.
Defence counsel Mike Buchinski from Saskatoon told the court that Palsich grew up in the Paradise Hill area northeast of Lloydminster. His criminal record shows a significant escalation in seriousness and he has a history of substance abuse.
Palsich, who used to work as a welder, lost his father in 2016 and didn’t have any supports he needed at the time.
Buchinski told the court that in 2019 Palsich was the victim of a serious assault when a drug dealer attacked him with an axe. Palsich was already blind in his right eye since childhood and the axe attack left him with serious injuries and blinded his left eye, which forced him onto disability and unable to work anymore as a welder.
“He has expressed some desire to get into a position as a counselor or youth worker to help kids in Lloydminster in the situation that he found himself,” said Buchinski.
He said the house was a drug and flophouse and Palsich was the homeowner’s pawn.
“It was a bad place and he was surrounded by bad people.”
At this point, Palsich, who stood before the judge, grabbed a tissue and wiped his eyes.
Buchinski said Palsich was “bound in the past and knows the terror that goes with it.”
The court heard that when Palsich was forced to duct tape Thorne to a chair with his hands behind his back he bound him loosely and kept saying, “I’m sorry.”
Being loosely bound helped Thorne to eventually escape.
The homeowner had “built a cage in the basement,” said Morden. The house had a re-enforced steel door with magnetic locks.
“This fact was confirmed by the RCMP when they attended,” said Morden.
“There was a lockdown chamber in the basement. Various rumours and suspicions had flown around in the community with respect to that basement. [The homeowner] spent a considerable amount of time creating that location for a nefarious purpose. There was also the production of a fair amount of [drugs] in that basement.”
Morden told the court that two search warrants were executed at the residence. During one search in 2020, the Alberta RCMP Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement and Response Team (CLEAR) were called in to assist.
(Lloydminster is Canada’s only border city and straddles the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.)
‘Not who I am,’ says Palsich
Judge Hill asked Palsich if he had anything to say before he was sentenced.
“This isn’t who I am,” said Palsich. “I am not some person who tapes people to chairs.”
The sentence proposed by the Crown and defence took into consideration “first and foremost” Palsich’s minor role, said Morden.
“A period of incarceration is warranted. It can be served in the community as a Conditional Sentence Order with probation to follow.”
The sentence is a rehabilitative sentence aimed at keeping Palsich on the right track and ensuring he doesn’t find himself in this type of situation again, said Morden.
Judge Hill accepted the Crown and defence’s joint submission for a six-month conditional sentence followed by six months probation. Palsich was also banned from owning firearms for life and ordered to provide his DNA to the Lloydminster RCMP by Jan. 21.
“I hope for your sake you can withdraw from the drug culture,” Judge Hill told Palsich. “In the inherent lawless nature of the drug culture you will be involved with people who are bad. What was described to me is a torture chamber down there. You are in close proximity to real scary stuff. You were at the worst place at the worst time.”
Judge Hill told Palsich he hopes he can deal with the underlying cause of his drug and alcohol addiction.
The house was a known “hotspot for drug use and criminal activity,” and has since been condemned, said Morden.