A federal prison inmate serving a life sentence for murder received a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty on Friday to assaulting a corrections officer and stealing the van she was driving.
Donald Junior Fowler, 32, of Buck Lake, pleaded guilty to escaping lawful custody, assaulting a peace officer, kidnapping, choking, and theft over $5,000 in Red Deer provincial court.
In an agreed statement of facts, the court heard corrections officer Patricia Seiller was escorting Fowler back to Drumheller Institution on Oct. 18 when he faked illness while they were on Hwy 42 near Pine Lake.
Seiller was escorting him on day pass from the prison to visit family at Buck Lake. She had escorted him seven times previously.
He attacked her, pressing his hand and seatbelt against her throat.
“She remembers grasping for air and grasping for the seatbelt,” said Crown prosecutor Maurice Collard, who read the statement.
He tied her hands with her shirt and told her to lie on the floor in the back of the van.
He told Seiller he didn’t want to be in jail anymore.
After he drove onto Hwy 587, he stopped the van and let her out, providing her with her shirt, cellphone and purse, and told her to call the police.
A short distance down the road, he stopped the van near a residence and told the homeowner to call the police while he waited in the van.
Fowler was arrested without incident.
Seiller was left with bruises and injuries to her neck and back.
In her victim impact statement, Seiller said her body is healing, but it will take a long time for the emotional scars to heal.
Fowler has been in prison for over 17 years. In late 2010, he was moved to minimum security and was allowed to work at the Drumheller recycling facility in the community.
Defence lawyer Michael Scrase said Fowler escaped custody after his application for unescorted visits was denied and other inmates began threatening him and his family because he wouldn’t smuggle things into the prison for them.
“The stress led to basically panic. He never intended to harm Miss Seiller. He considered her a friend, ” Scrase said.
“He dropped her off so he wouldn’t scare her anymore.”
Fowler will initially serve about one year in a maximum security prison in Quebec for the most violent offenders who pose a danger to staff or inmates.
The Crown wanted a six-year sentence.
Judge Jim Mitchell said Fowler “forcefully and violently and criminally took control of the vehicle and custody of Miss Seiller.”
“I can’t imagine the terror, the horror, she must have sensed.”
Despite the enormous stress upon Fowler, “the fact remains it is a penitentiary. Stress is a part and parcel of life in custody,” Mitchell said.
“We have the system we have and I can’t begin to change it today.”