A woman testified Thursday in Red Deer court during a Mountie’s trial that she feared he had set her home on fire.
The 2006 fire caused structural damage and killed a dog, cat and cockatiel.
RCMP Const. Hoa Dong La, in a judge-alone trial before Justice David Gates in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench, is accused of using a variety of tactics for monetary gain, involving five different properties in Innisfail and Bowden and in the rural area near Bowden Institution.
La, 47, faces 15 counts altogether, including three counts of extortion, two of criminal harassment and 10 of mortgage fraud.
In November 2005, La got a mortgage on a home in Innisfail and pretended to live there, while allowing Jennifer Henschel and her family to rent the home.
Henschel testified that La began hounding her and her husband to pay the money they owed him and assume his mortgage after about only one month into their two-year, rent-to-own contract.
She said they helped La renovate a property he was going to flip because they felt they had no choice. He threatened to evict them for being in breach of their contract and sell their home.
“Hoa La was controlling everything we did in our life, our money, who we could talk to,” Henschel said on Thursday.
A fire at the home the Henschels were renting from La happened in June 2006, after she told La they were not available one day to work on the house.
“I felt like I was in the presence of evil,” said Henschel who was afraid that La set the fire.
He later told them they had committed mortgage fraud and said “If I’m going down, you’re going down,” Henschel testified.
She said La wanted them to lie to the insurance company after the fire, claiming the insurance broker breached confidentiality. He wanted them to stop giving money to their church while they still owed him money.
At one point, she said, he asked Henschel how she preferred to be arrested.
La called her, demanding she call him back, Henschel testified.
When she called back, he complained loudly that “some crazy bitch” kept calling him. She feared she would be arrested for stalking.
“He said he could get away with a lot as a police officer,” Henschel said.
When Henschel finally went to police for help, she thought La would kill her.
To protect the Henschel family, RCMP put in panic alarm buttons in their home and gave them a phone to call if they were in trouble.
Henschel said she has spent years looking over her shoulder for La.
“I’m never going to be the same having this experience. I want to trust the RCMP. I want to trust people, but I don’t.”
The trial started Monday and is expected to continue for four weeks.
La is on leave from the RCMP with pay.