WARNING: The following story contains details that some readers may find disturbing. Discretion is advised.
CORNWALL – “I don’t feel safe in my own backyard” and “my world has been turned upside down.”
Those words were read aloud in a Cornwall court this morning (Wednesday, Feb. 28) as Judge Diane Lahaie heard a victim impact statement from a woman preyed upon by a Peeping Tom in North Glengarry almost a year ago.
Roderick Welburn, 57, of North Glengarry had pleaded guilty in November to criminal harassment through watching or besetting. He also pled guilty to a breach of recognizance today.
Crown attorney Elaine Evans read the victim’s statement, whose identity is protected under a publication ban, because the victim did not want to face her harasser. Welburn, with short black and grey hair and wearing a tan Carhartt-style jacket with a hoodie underneath, sat on the lawyer’s bench behind Evans.
“My life has changed completely. I’ve always been independent and love spending time by myself,” Evans read. “Now, I dread being alone, even for a few minutes. In fact, since that night in March I have never been alone overnight in my home.”
“When I go to bed at night, I lie there listening for footsteps. Sometimes I swear that I hear them and then I realize it’s just the sound of my heart beating,” the victim wrote.
The woman heard a noise outside her home on March 15, 2017 around 11 p.m. and saw the “silhouette of an individual looking inside the residence” when she went into the bathroom. The perpetrator was wearing a jacket with a hood over his head.
The victim has also had to add deadbolt locks, motion detector lights and a security system, to the tune of $1,831, for which she is seeking restitution.
“I don’t go outside very often because I’m afraid to. I love to garden yet this past summer I wouldn’t go outside unless someone was visiting. I don’t feel safe in my own backyard,” the woman wrote.
“The idea that I have to defend myself in my own home makes me very upset. The irony is not lost on me that he is free as a bird and I am locked up in my fortress.”
The victim is planned to sell her home to “escape from this situation.”
Welburn was arrested In May 2017 after an extensive police investigation into a man peering into the windows of an isolated home on County Road 24 near Dunvegan on two separate occasions.
Court heard how SD&G O.P.P. officers had collected evidence of footprints and car tire tracks near the scene in order to catch the perpetrator. There was also DNA evidence collected from cigarette butts outside the home.
When arrested and confronted with the evidence, Welburn admitted to police that he had been at the victim’s home but he “couldn’t explain it” and said his actions were “stupid” and that he was “curious.” He also told police he did not take photos or videos, did not see the victim undressed, nor was he masturbating, court heard in an agreed statement of facts.
Crown attorney Evans also noted this wasn’t the first time Welburn had been in trouble for looking in people’s windows, noting a case in 2011 where a woman living on County Road 34 in South Glengarry called police about a similar case. While no charges were laid, Welburn had been cautioned by police at that time, Evans said.
Welburn is being defended by Cornwall lawyer Ian Paul.
The case will be back in court in April for a status check as the court has ordered a sexual behaviours assessment and is also looking for confirmation Welburn has already received treatment from a psychologist.