REGINA — It took more than four months to get an arrest warrant, but police say they’re confident they’ll find their suspect in the case of a man who was starved, burned and had parts of his tongue and lips cut off.
Police in Regina and Calgary are looking for Dustin Ward Paxton, 30, and he faces several charges, including aggravated assault and forcible confinement. The allegations are in connection with the case of Dustin LaFortune, who was dumped at a Regina hospital April 16.
While police have only now publicly fingered Paxton — LaFortune’s former roommate — as their suspect, LaFortune’s family has been pointing to him for months, using the Internet to make its case.
Regina police spokeswoman Elizabeth Popowich said Tuesday that there have been some challenges in the investigation, including that LaFortune initially couldn’t give officers a statement.
“It’s been a difficult investigation,” said Popowich.
“The medical needs of the victim obviously had to be looked after first and this was a person who had clearly endured a traumatic ordeal, had some new injuries and also a number of injuries that obviously had been caused earlier.”
The 26-year-old LaFortune weighed just 87 pounds, down from his usual weight of 245, when he was left at the hospital. His family has said that in addition to extensive physical injuries, he suffered brain trauma and amnesia.
Regina police couldn’t interview him until May 14.
“Even then, there was some difficulty in getting an accurate picture of what had happened,” said Popowich. “Without going into specifics, I think that part of that is attributable to the victim’s injuries, to his ability to be able to focus and recall events.”
LaFortune was reported missing in Calgary on April 12.
His family said he moved to the city from Winnipeg two years ago to work for a moving company and they lost contact with him in February.
Details about what might have happened during that time began to emerge after LaFortune was dumped at the hospital.
A landlord at a Regina apartment building said he rented a suite to LaFortune in mid-March and a man living below that suite said he regularly heard disturbing sounds coming from there. Officers raided the apartment as part of their probe.
Word of the warrant was welcomed by LaFortune’s family. His mother, Renee LaFortune, called the investigators “heroes” in a Facebook post.
Other supporters voiced their frustration with the delay.
Calgary police Det. Doug Crippen, whom Renee LaFortune personally praised, said the delay came because police needed to gather evidence.