A legally blind McBride man recounted Thursday the events that led to him suffering facial injuries so severe he continues to feel numbness to one side of his face, is unable to chew properly and has trouble with his balance and short-term memory some 10 months later.
William Floris Groeneveld, 56, testified he suffered 38 facial fractures after being struck at least twice when he interpreted the actions of a man who was giving him a lift home as a sexual advance and grabbed his buttock and reached for his crotch.
Michael Allan Richter, 33, of Ponoka, Alberta, faces five charges in relation to the alleged Dec. 11, 2011 incident. A trial in B.C. Supreme Court on the matter began Monday and is expected to last a week.
Groeneveld, who uses a white cane to guide himself around the community of about 700 people 220 kilometres east of Prince George, testified he got lost while trying to walk home after a night at the McBride Hotel.
Groeneveld said he turned back toward two or three voices he had heard behind him, asked for a ride and, after a short conversation among the others, took the arm of a person and was led to a vehicle.
He said either the driver or he suggested they go to the recreation centre for a drink but could not say definitively if they went there. But within three to four minutes of getting the ride, Groeneveld said, the vehicle was off the road and stuck in the snow.
"The vehicle just sort of drove into the ditch," Groeneveld said. "There was no attempt to hit the brakes, there was no attempt to swerve."
Groeneveld testified he suggested the driver get out of the vehicle to avoid getting charged with drunk driving, and then got out himself and guided himself around to the vehicle's front where he grabbed onto the driver's elbow.
But at short distance later Groeneveld said he sensed a "violent thrashing" of the man's body and put his arms around him to calm him down. Within seconds, the same actions occurred once again, Groeneveld said, and he hugged him once more.
Shortly after that, said Groeneveld, who confirmed he is homosexual, the driver started rubbing his crotch along his and, in return, he put a hand on the driver's buttocks and reached for his crotch.
"There was no lump in his crotch anymore and when I did that, that's when I took the two blows to the left hand side of my face," Groeneveld said.
He said he then felt his cane being grabbed and thought he was in serious trouble. The cane is collapsable with its pieces connected with an elastic cord and Groeneveld said he was convinced his attacker intended to use it to hang him.
Groeneveld said he suffered one more blow and did not remember hitting the ground. His next memory was waking up in hospital in Prince George.
Under cross examination from defence lawyer Rob Climie, Groeneveld said the driver was quiet the whole time other than when he answered "no" when asked if there were vehicles in the recreation centre parking lot. Groeneveld also said it was likely he suggested they go to the centre for another drink, not the driver.
Asked if the driver was acting strangely in the vehicle, Groeneveld said he thought he was just a quiet person. The "red flags" first rose, Groeneveld testified, only when he suggested they get out of the vehicle and heard no answer.
Asked if the driver's thrashings were the product of a "conscious" mind, Groeneveld said he thought they were the product of an "uncontrolled" mind.
Just prior to Groeneveld taking the stand, Justice Frits Verhoeven allowed as evidence a statement Richter gave to police in which he said he had been drinking and consuming drugs that night and does not remember anything that happened after he left the bar.
Groeneveld said he had left the McBride Hotel shortly before 2 a.m. and suffered the injuries within five minutes of getting the ride. Police have said they found Groeneveld lying in a ditch at about 5 a.m. and Richter was found in the vehicle a short distance away at about the same time.