The man accused of trying to rob the Valley Credit Union branch in Canning last week walked into and out of the courtroom at Kentville provincial court Monday and Tuesday, which came as bit of a surprise to some observers at the courthouse.
That’s because almost two years ago, when Leif Spilchen was being sentenced for the March 30, 2016 robbery of the credit union’s Hantsport branch, he was in a wheelchair.
He said then, while representing himself, that he had been in the wheelchair for six months, and would be in it for the rest of his life. He told the judge that he was a paraplegic and that his doctor told him he had a complete spinal cord injury. He said he had only a three to five per cent chance of ever walking again “which means zero now because it has been six months and I haven’t regained any movement at all.
“Unfortunately there is no way current way to repair a damaged or bruised spinal cord. Researchers are trying to do what they can do and maybe in a hundred years... but now, my life will be spent in this chair... Incomplete injury gives a person hope, (but) I have a complete injury so it doesn’t apply to me. I think it’s meant to be. At least I know myself that I’ll never do another robbery, I’ll never rob another bank.”
He was sentenced to four years and three months in jail on Oct. 4, 2017, less 27 months for time spent in custody after his arrest.
At the sentencing, Crown attorney Bill Fergusson noted from the presentence report that Spilchen “was injured while in custody. I won’t go into that other than to say that he didn’t start out in a wheel chair and now he’s in one.”
Several sources have said that Spilchen threw himself down a set of stairs at the Pictou County jail and tried to claim that he had been pushed by corrections officers. The justice department has said that an internal investigation was conducted and the incident was determined to be accidental, but didn’t comment on the extent of the injuries sustained.
Spilchen described the incident at his sentencing as an accident, but suggested there would be a civil suit. The justice department said late last year that there had been no legal action launched from the case.
Spilchen, 39, was arrested Friday, about half an hour after someone fired shots in the attempted robbery in Canning before fleeing in a vehicle.
Police spotted a vehicle matching the description given by witnesses, but the driver would not pull over. Spilchen was arrested outside a home on Highway 359 in Centreville shortly before 10 a.m. and arrested without incident.
Spilchen had appeared without a lawyer Monday, and was in court briefly with a lawyer Tuesday who was being retained on a legal aid certificate. Spilchen told the court that he was going to represent himself for now, and the matter was adjourned for two weeks so he could review the Crown disclosure.
He will remain in custody until then on charges of armed robbery, wearing a mask while committing an offence, using a firearm in an offence, intimidation through threats of violence, careless use of a firearm, pointing a firearm, unauthorized possession of a firearm, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, possession of a firearm while prohibited, flight from police, driving while prohibited and breach of probation.