Remembering a God-fearing man’s senseless death
When disabled or vulnerable people — like Harvey Sanderson Jr. — wind up beaten and dead, my blood boils.
I’m likely not alone.
Sanderson’s beating seems so callous and pointless.
But, in some small way, it allows me a small opportunity to offer my apology to the family of a vulnerable man beaten to death in fall 2008 because he didn’t have a smoke to give a passing drunk.
As it is with Sanderson, I had the same dull pit of anger in by gut in the days following the killing of Tim Knudsen outside the Salvation Army — his home.
As I’ve come to learn, some of those who participated in the group beating that ultimately caused the 300 lb. “gentle giant” to suffer a massive brain injury and die remain at large. They know who they are and hopefully they live in shame and torment for their actions.
A week or so after Knudsen died, police arrested two men who ultimately pleaded guilty.
Cyril Raven — who initiated the attack, punched Knudsen, knocked him down and walked away, pleaded to assault cause bodily harm and got a sentence of 190 days time served and two years of probation, which is still ongoing.
Dean Isbister — who joined in and kicked the prone, defenceless Knudsen in the head at least twice — pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received a sentence of 638 days time served, plus two years less a day of jail to top it off and three years probation to follow.
They were sentenced June 17, 2010 in front of Judge Marvin Garfinkel.
Their punishments, from what I can tell through news archives, has never been reported.
But more importantly, what was never put on the record is the comments made by Knudsen’s sister, Ann Piekoff, in her statement to the court — and the two men held responsible for the crime.
Ann was kind enough to sit and talk with me back in my Free Press days. Judging from the date of the post of our time together, it was a few months after her beloved brother died.
To hear her talk about how there were no defensive wounds found on her brother’s hands during the autopsy.
I committed back then to seeing the prosecution through, but lost track of it along the line, having switched jobs and responsibilities.
For that, I apologize.
And while I could rail on about what some may call “weak” sentence meted out by the courts for the loss of a good man’s life (however challenged it was) there’s no point. Given conflicting statements given by witnesses at the scene, the Crown was probably lucky to get the convictions it did.
What is important, I feel today, is to remember Knudsen — through the words of his sister as told to Garfinkel.
Here they are, for the record.
Sadly, Tim’s life ended tragically, far too soon, almost two years ago. To understand what we have lost, your Honour, you have to know a little bit about who Tim was and what he meant to me and to his family and friends.
Tim didn’t choose his life, but he lived it the best he could. He had his challenges mentally and physically but he never burdened others with his issues. He was fiercely independent and chose to live on his own in a community where he was accepted and indeed had many friends.
Tim loved the outdoors and often went fishing with his friends from the Booth Centre. He especially loved going to the Goldeyes games or the football games when he had the chance.
Sundays would find him at chapel where he loved music and singing. He had a passion for music — all kinds of music from heavy metal to … gospel.
The last photo we have of Tim is him at a gospel meeting, reading from the Bible.
Even though Tim was independent and wanted to live on his own he was still very much connected to his family.
I had a weekly ritual with Tim.
He would call me on Mondays to arrange a day to come over to visit myself and his two nieces.
He would always come over early so then he could cut my grass or shovel the snow. He would do anything I asked him to.
He loved family get-togethers and celebrations. Even though he didn’t talk a lot, you knew he enjoyed being around our gatherings.
Now, when my parents come to visit, there’s an empty spot at the dinner table. I see the pain and the sadness in my parents’ eyes knowing that Tim won’t be there.
It would be easy to judge or dismiss Tim as a homeless bum based on where he lived and his physical appearance. But Tim was part of a loving family and was loved by us as well as his friends.
Tim was our gentle giant, he was generous to a fault and would never lift a hand against another. The tragedy is he chose to live independently —as was his right— and because of his challenges he was vulnerable.
I was his big sister and I should have been able to protect him but could not.
His death leaves a hole in our lives as it does for his friends and our community.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I and my family don’t think about him.
I miss him.