CALGARY — A Calgary man charged in a chilling case of alleged torture involving his former roommate has been found fit to stand trial and his lawyer says he’s expecting more charges to be laid involving different complainants.
Dustin Paxton, 30, is accused of the aggravated assault and forcible confinement of Dustin LaFortune, who was starved, burned and had parts of his tongue and lips cut off before being dumped at a hospital in Regina on April 16.
Paxton is also charged with forcible confinement and aggravated assault involving a girl under the age of 18.
“There might be another group of charges coming with respect to Mr. Paxton,” lawyer Jim Lutz said moments after his client made a brief court appearance in Calgary on Monday.
“I’m not the Crown, but let’s just say it’s not the same victims we have now,” he added. “The charges are not yet before the court. They may be there by Thursday, so that’s something else we have to prepare for.”
Calgary police indicated last month that they were conducting several parallel investigations and had called for other alleged victims to come forward.
A spokesman couldn’t confirm if new charges will be laid, but said the case “is still under investigation.”
LaFortune, 26, weighed just 87 pounds, down from 245 pounds, when he was dropped off in Regina. His family has said that in addition to extensive physical injuries, he suffered brain trauma and amnesia.
He was reported missed in Calgary on April 12. He had moved to the city from Winnipeg two years ago to work for a moving company owned by Paxton. LaFortune lived and worked with Paxton in both Calgary and Regina.
Lutz said the publicity the case has garnered across the country presents a challenge.
“Public opinion has always got to be first and foremost and the nature of the charges are extremely serious. The allegations are very grave. But again, there’s a lot to this case and a lot of information in terms of what the victims have to say and what Mr. Paxton will ultimately have to say,” Lutz said.
“As we look at it, it presents challenges again because of the public perception of these charges.”
Lutz has elected to have the trial for Paxton before a judge and jury, which will put his client’s fate in the hands of the public.
“I don’t think the public’s stupid. I think they can see what the truth is and I think they’ll be able to sift through what is and isn’t the case and I believe they’ll do the right thing and will come back with a conclusion that is just,” he said.
A 60-day psychiatric examination found Paxton fit to stand trial. Another court hearing on Thursday will determine a date for a preliminary hearing, which Lutz expects to be scheduled for January.
LaFortune is now in Victoria recuperating with his family.