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Sadist's family begs for mercy

'We would give our lives to change the events that occurred... ' -- statement from parents of man who tortured family

He committed unimaginable crimes, randomly torturing a family of four he held hostage inside their own home.

Now, the parents of the disturbed 20-year-old invader are speaking publicly for the first time -- apologizing to the victims and begging the justice system for leniency.

"We can't imagine the unspeakable terror they endured at the hands of our son," began a written statement read aloud in court Thursday by defence lawyer Danny Gunn. "We would give our lives to change the events that occurred in what should have been the safe haven of their home. We pray every day for their healing and hope one day they will feel safe in their home again."

They also vowed to stand by the troubled young man, saying he doesn't deserve the life sentence Manitoba justice officials have requested.

"We ask for mercy from the court. Please give him the opportunity to receive help, to rehabilitate and redeem himself," they wrote. "He is our only son and we feel we have lost him to an illness we don't understand. The sense of loss has shattered the foundation of our existence and has affected every aspect of our lives. We're in a perpetual state of mourning with no real end in sight. Our only child is gone to prison and still has toys in his bedroom."

Gunn wrapped up a three-day sentencing hearing Thursday by saying the accused should only be sentenced to 12 years in prison for the October 2010 ambush in North Kildonan. He told provincial court Judge Rob Finlayson it's much too early for society to give up on his client.

"I certainly understand the desire for vengeance in this case. But it has no place in the justice system," said Gunn. "A true measure of a just society is the manner in which we treat those least deserving of our empathy. It's the manner in which we treat the most wretched that makes Canada a great country."

Finlayson reserved his decision until Oct. 1.

If he receives a life sentence, the man is eligible to apply for parole after just seven years under provisions of the Criminal Code.

He's been in custody since October 2010, meaning he could be free as early as October 2017. However, he would remain under strict parole conditions for the rest of his life if he were to be returned to the community.

If given a fixed term such as 12 years, the man would be eligible for parole after serving one-third of that total sentence. As well, he would no longer be under any supervisory conditions in the community once the full term expired -- a risk the Crown has called "dangerous guesswork" given his heinous acts and high risk to reoffend.

Although he was 18 at the time, the Free Press is not identifying the man in order to publish details about his involvement with the justice system when he was a youth. That involvement leads to questions about the type of supervision and treatment he received while free in the community and while being assessed.

The four victims -- a husband, wife, 17-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son -- suffered extensive physical and emotional trauma during the 90-minute attack. The accused selected them at random after following the daughter home on a city bus as part of his plan to rape, torture and possibly kill people in an attempt "to become infamous," court was told. He made the woman tie up her children and husband with duct tape. He assaulted, terrorized, degraded and sexually tortured them until the father and son finally broke free, overpowered him and held him for police.

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