Judgement day for two-time convicted killer Ronald Alvin Thomas.
In January of this year, Thomas was found guilty of manslaughter in connection with the death of his girlfriend Beatrice Crane (44) years of Winnipeg.
The Back Story
On November 21, 2014, members of the Winnipeg Police Service located Crane in a suite in the 500 block of Victor Street after responding to a 911 disturbance call.
Police later determined the call had been made by Thomas who subsequently fled the crime scene to avoid arrest.
When police arrived they found a mortally wounded Crane suffering from a single stab wound to the left side of her chest.
Paramedics did what they could.
Beatrice Crane died from her injuries.
She was the 21st homicide victim of 2014.
On March 23, 2015, police arrested and charged Thomas in connection with her killing.
The case was almost entirely circumstantial.
Police didn’t find the murder weapon, there was no confession, no DNA evidence pointing to the accused and the trial Judge made several rulings favouring the defence.
“Police didn’t find the murder weapon, there was no confession, no DNA evidence pointing to the accused and the trial Judge made several rulings favouring the defence.”
That didn’t stop the Crown from vigorously pursuing justice for Crane and those left in the wake of the tragedy.
After securing the conviction the debate turned to sentence.
What kind of sentence should a man get for sticking a knife in his girlfriend’s chest and killing her?
Hold that thought…
There’s more to the story.
In 1989, Thomas, who was eighteen years old when he was charged and eventually convicted of manslaughter in the killing of a man identified as Victor Davis Cameron (24).
He was one of two men charged in the homicide.
Thomas was sentenced to 4 1/2 years for the killing.
As a twice-convicted killer, Thomas has placed himself in a class of people one would think is extremely rare.
“As a twice-convicted killer, Thomas has placed himself in a class of people one would think is extremely rare.”
If only that were true.
Nonetheless, you would think the sentence for such a killer would have to be extremely significant.
Maybe, maybe not…
Thursday, June 7, 2018
The proceedings were to start at 9 a.m. in courtroom #114 in the Court of Queen’s Bench.
The Prosecution was represented by Senior Crown Mr. Mark Lafreniere while the defence was represented by the one and only Mr. Greg Brodsky.
The gallery was sparse.
A few family members, a victim services worker, a retired homicide detective, a lone member of the press and a couple other interested parties.
There were no protestors, no placards, no social justice warriors, no political change makers and no Inquiry commissioners.
I wasn’t surprised.
It was more of the same for one of the most under-reported cases in recent memory.
(A domestic violence murder of an Indigenous woman by a two-time killer – not all that compelling it seems.)
Thomas was escorted into the courtroom by two Sheriffs Officers at around 9:10 a.m.
I hadn’t laid eyes on him for almost 21 years.
I have history with Mr. Thomas.
The Back – Back Story
It was June of 1997 when I arrested Thomas for several serious armed robberies after he and an accomplice went on a Winnipeg crime spree doing hold-ups at hotels, video stores, drug stores, grocery stores and 7-11’s.
During the hold-ups, the suspects were armed with an uzi style machine gun they used to intimidate and terrify their victims.
In a fortunate turn of events, I was lucky enough to put the cuffs on him after catching him in a foot chase after he fled the scene of an armed robbery at the Vimy Park Pharmacy at Portage Avenue & Arlington Street.
At the time of his arrest, Thomas attempted to pull a 13 1/2″ butcher knife on me.
(Thankfully, he lost the Uzi after passing out drunk in a booze can a few nights before the robbery.)
He would later tell me he planned on using it on me if he could only have managed to free it from his waistband.
I had no reason to doubt his sincerity.
Thomas had put on some beef, about 75 pounds or so, but other than that he looked much the same. He dwarfed the young Sheriffs Officers tasked with guarding him.
I’m confident I wasn’t the only one in that courtroom who questioned their decision to remove his handcuffs.
This was a different Ronald Alvin Thomas.
He was a docile, lumbering version of his former menacing self and appeared only moderately interested in the events that were about to unfold.
His eyes seemed content to stare at the floor as the clerk bellowed, “Order, all rise.”
The Sentence Delivered
Justice Chris Martin entered the courtroom and immediately commenced the proceedings reiterating the prior positions of the parties;
- The Crown – 15 years incarceration – less time in custody
- The Defense – a range of 4 – 6 years with a cap of no more than 8 years
The gap between the sentencing recommendations seemed to reflect more than just a difference in philosophy.
You can draw your own conclusions.
The first issue to resolve was pre-trial credit for time spent in custody.
Justice Martin indicated the time in custody was to be assessed at the “normal” rate of 1.5 days credit for every 1 day served in pre-trial custody.
After some debate – it was resolved Thomas spent 3 years & 3 months in pre-trial custody.
- 39 months x 1.5 = 58.5 months
Whatever the sentence, Thomas was to receive a generous discount of 5 years before he ever left the courtroom.
“Whatever the sentence, Thomas was to receive a generous discount of 5 years before he ever left the courtroom.”
Justice Martin proceeded to work his way through the case as he delivered his decision.
The mitigating factors were few;
- Thomas’s early years were turbulent, his father struggled with drug and alcohol addiction
- He was abused as a child
- He started using drugs and alcohol by the time he was 13 or 14 years of age
- Although residential schools were not a contributing factor, Thomas was an alleged victim of racism & racialized poverty
- He has a grade 6 or 7 education
- He has no vocational skills and has never sustained any kind of meaningful employment
(Thomas also made an outrageous claim that he suffered memory loss as a result of the “beating” he took from police during his robbery arrest in 1997. In reality, he couldn’t have possibly been arrested with less force given the fact he was trying to produce an edged weapon to stab me to avoid being captured.)
The aggravating factors were significant;
- Thomas has a violent criminal record – including the earlier conviction for manslaughter & several convictions for violence and robbery offences
- He spent approximately 17 years continuously incarcerated from 1989 – 2006
“He spent approximately 17 years continuously incarcerated from 1989 – 2006”
- He offered no excuse or explanation for the killing
- The killing occurred in the context of a domestic violence attack
- The victim was killed in her home, a place of refuge where she should have been safe
- A knife was used in the attack
- Thomas knew Crane was seriously injured and left her to alone to die
- Thomas expressed grief but fails to accept responsibility
With that, Justice Martin delivered the sentence;
“The sentence will be 12 years in prison,” he said.
With the 5 year credit, Thomas will serve 7 years on a go forward basis.
You’ll be comforted to know Thomas will be eligible for full parole after he serves 1/3 or 2.33 years of his sentence.
With pre-trial custody credit and the potential for parole, Thomas may ultimately serve less than half of his 12-year sentence.
That, of course, will be up to the Parole Board.
One thing I’m sure of, at the relatively youthful age of only 46, and two killings under his belt, Ronald Alvin Thomas will serve his sentence and be out in plenty of time to put that 3rd notch in his belt.
And that’s how this story ends.