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Otway sentenced to six years for Nipigon kidnapping and assault

Andrew Otway, brother of missing person Alyssa Turnbull, pleaded guilty to several charges from an incident involving the kidnapping and assault of a man he believed had information about her disappearance.

THUNDER BAY  The brother of Alyssa Turnbull, who has been missing since April 2020, has been sentenced to six years after pleading guilty to several charges relating to a kidnapping and assault of a man in Nipigon who he believed had information about her disappearance.

Andrew Otway, 30, appeared in court Wednesday via video from the Thunder Bay District Jail. He pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping with a prohibited firearm, one count of aggravated assault, one count of possession prohibited firearm, and one count of being in a motor vehicle with the knowledge of there being a prohibited firearm inside.

Justice Claudia Belda Perez handed down a six-year global sentence to Otway. With credit of 792 days of pre-sentence custody enhanced at a rate of two-to-one, he will remain in custody for 1,398 days, or approximately 3.8 years.

Otway was initially charged on Sept. 14, 2020 by the Ontario Provincial Police following an incident in Nipigon earlier that morning in which a man was forcibly confined in a residence and assaulted.

Jayson Lawson-Balodis, who is also Otway’s uncle, Billy Thompson, and Harold Robert Sault were also arrested and charged in connection to the incident.

According to an agreed statement of facts read into the record by Crown attorney Dana Peterson, Otway was picked up by his father and Lawson-Balodis in Thunder Bay on Sept. 13 and driven to Nipigon for what he thought was an opportunity to detox.

They arrived at a Park Street residence and Otway’s father left after dinner. The next morning, Lawson-Balodis, Thompson, and Sault arrived, with Sault leaving and returning again with the victim, who voluntarily entered the residence.

Upon entering the home, the victim told police he did not recognize anyone there and he was struck on the head with a firearm and had his hands and feet tied. The victim was then beaten and questioned about the disappearance of Turnbull. A taser was used during the assault as well as a sawed-off shotgun that was pointed at his head.

The victim told police he was repeatedly questioned about Turnbull, but he did not have any information to offer. Someone said to put him in the trunk of the car because they were not getting anywhere with the questioning, and two of the accused left. He was then placed in the trunk of a car driven by Otway.

A witness in the area said in the early morning hours of Sept. 14, he witnessed a car coming out of a driveway very quickly and when turning a corner, the trunk popped open and a man jumped out. The victim said he was able to release the latch of the trunk from the inside and he ran to the witness, who called police.

Later that morning, the same car was intercepted by the OPP travelling south down Highway 17, and Otway was arrested. Another witness advised police a weapon was observed on the side of the highway not far from where the arrest took place. Police seized a sawed-off shotgun from that location. A taser was also found in Otway’s possession.

According to the Crown, forensic evidence linked the victim to the Park Street residence and the trunk of the car, as well as linking Otway to the residence and the firearm.

There was no victim impact statement read into the record, but the court heard that the victim suffered facial fractures, several fractured ribs, and injury to one of his lungs.

The Crown sought a global sentence of seven years in custody, while defense counsel Kate Brindley requested a global sentence of six years.

Brindley said there were several mitigating factors in the case, including Otway’s full cooperation with police and providing a statement shortly after his arrest. He also entered a guilty plea as soon as possible, sparing the victim and the courts from a lengthy judicial process.

Brindley acknowledged that the incident seen as vigilantism is an aggravating factor, but she pointed out that Otway was not involved in any planning of the attack.

“This was not a planned or deliberate offence,” she said. “This could be described as a crime of passion. He was surprised by the attendance of victim and attack. He had personal issues with him because of the atrocities he believed was inflicted upon his sister.”

This also resulted in Otway not necessarily expressing remorse for his actions, but Brindley said he has expressed regret for what happened that morning and his involvement.

Crown says vigilantism an aggravating factor

During the Crown’s submission, Peterson said one of the significant aggravating factors in the case is the act of vigilantism.

“Vigilantism undermines the rule of law and administration of rule of justice and takes it out of the hands of the police and puts it into the hands of criminals,” she said. “The fact that it was vigilantism is a serious factor to consider and an aggravating feature.”

Peterson acknowledged that Otway may not have been involved in initial planning of the kidnapping and assault, but said there was no denying his involvement in the actual incident, as he took charge of the scene after the other accused left, and drove the vehicle with the victim in the trunk and a loaded sawed-off shotgun and taser.

“I do appreciate that Mr. Otway may not have initially been in on this. I don’t have any evidence to say otherwise. What is clear, is that his level of involvement increases as this crime continues,” Peterson said.

The victim also escaped on his own, Peterson pointed out, noting that he expressed to police that he believed the accused were going to take him somewhere to kill him.

“This kidnapping only ended because he was able to escape out of the trunk of a moving vehicle,” Peterson added. “So that helped us appreciate the gravity of the offence.”

Peterson did acknowledge Otway’s admission of guilt and that his involvement was driven by grief over the disappearance of his sister.

When given the opportunity to speak, Otway said he was sorry for what he has done.

Judge agrees to six year sentence

Justice Belda Perez said she did take several mitigating factors into consideration, including Otway’s minimal criminal record that did not include violent or weapons-related charges, and his cooperation with police.

However, she referred to the seriousness of the crime and its relation to vigilantism.

“Both counsel and Crown indicated there was the issue of vigilante justice,” she said. “While I accept that Otway was not involved in the planning of the offence, it was a lapse in judgment when he decided to take part in it and keep going after the others have left.”

Justice Belda Perez agreed with the defense’s submission of a six-year global sentence, as well as a DNA order, a 10-year weapons prohibition, and no contact order for the victim and his family. A victim surcharge fee was waived.

Pre-sentenced custody was enhanced from the usual 1.5-to-one to two-to-one due to Otway being incarcerated at the Thunder Bay District Jail at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in the facility in early 2021, which resulted in his transfer to a facility in Southern Ontario.

The charges against Lawson-Balodis, Thompson, and Sault remain before the courts.

The investigation into the disappearance of Alyssa Turnbull remains ongoing. She is described as standing five-foot-three, weighing about 100 pounds, with shoulder-length blonde hair and blue eyes. She may have changed her hair colour to purple or red.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is encouraged to contact the Ontario Provincial Police at 1-888-310-1122 or their local police service.


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