Five months of renting from a Mountie accused of bullying his tenants left one of them so distraught, she sought treatment for depression.
Ginia Demyen finished her testimony on Tuesday in the trial of RCMP Const. Hoa Dong La, 47, who is charged with extortion, criminal harassment and mortgage fraud in relation to five different properties in Innisfail, Bowden and the surrounding area.
La, who is on paid leave and not being held in custody, is being tried in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench before Justice David Gates. La works in Calgary and lives in Airdrie.
Questioned by Crown prosecutor Leah Boyd, Demyen testified that she was so afraid of La, she would not give him a forwarding address and went into hiding for two years after leaving the Bowden-area acreage she and her partner, Jason Bell, had rented from him during the late winter and early spring of 2004.
Demyen said she and Bell were under “constant harassment” from La, who would park in their yard, enter the property without giving advance notice, threaten that harm would come to their animals and who served them with more than a dozen eviction notices.
Following a meeting mediated by the Alberta Landlords and Tenants board that February, an agreement was struck which would allow Demyen and Bell to break the terms of their lease and vacate the property on July 31.
It included provisions requiring La to return their damage deposit and pay $400 in living expenses as prescribed at the time under the Landlords and Tenants Act.
However, La was “very upset” afterward and the harassment continued, Demyen testified.
“He was trying to find some way to get rid of us,” she said.
Her fears escalated when she came home one day to find her dog missing from the yard, where it had been tied to a dog house and when La threatened to either destroy or remove her horses.
Demyen said she and Bell led the horses to a neighbouring property after coming home to find a notice from the Alberta SPCA posted on one of the doors to the house.
She spoke with the officer who posted the notice and was told that her horses could be in danger.
Earlier on, she and Bell were also told they would have to pay for reconnection fees and the damages to an electrical cable after a grass fire that started on the property while they were both away.
Neighbours had called the fire department, but Demyen and Bell had not seen the damage because they were not at home during daylight hours.
More trouble erupted when La discovered that Demyen had struggled with an unusually high electrical bill at the end of April because she had not submitted meter readings.
Demyen testified that La had the Central Alberta Rural Electrification Association cut the power off early in May, and then brought a couple of men out to remove the firewood that was her and Bell’s only source of heat.
There was enough firewood to cover the bed of a truck, of which half belonged to La while she and Bell had put up the remainder, she said.
Demyen testified that La followed their convoy of vehicles on May 17 when she and Bell moved out with help from her uncle and parents.
She said she hid out until November of 2006, when Cpl. Peter Le Blanc of the Sundre RCMP came to speak with her about her dealings with La.
She was later contacted by another of La’s tenants, who was planning to sue him for damages.
Demyen said she declined to participate in the proposed lawsuit, but had attempted to seek $28,000 in restitution from La, including five months rent, damage deposit and personal damages including the depression she suffered and the resulting impact on her marks in college.
She did not pursue the application because she couldn’t afford it.
La’s trial, expected to last four weeks in total, has been adjourned until Monday.