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Crown seeks 10 years jail for man who killed aunt in North Vancouver apartment

Anthony Santos Del Rosario was in a meth-induced psychosis during the incident, according to psychiatric assessments
A police officer enters the scene of a murder in North Vancouver's Lower Lonsdale neighbourhood on Dec. 14, 2022. | Alanna Kelly / Glacier Media

The Crown is seeking a 10-year prison sentence for a man who stabbed his aunt to death in her North Vancouver home.

The incident happened on Dec. 13, 2022 in a third floor apartment of the 200 block of West Third St.

While a drug-induced psychosis meant that Anthony Santos Del Rosario wasn’t making rational decisions during the brutal killing of Dominga Santos, his moral responsibility for the crime was still high, Crown counsel Michaela Donnelly argued at Santos’s sentencing in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Initially, Del Rosario had been charged with second-degree murder, but that was later downgraded to manslaughter. The accused entered a guilty plea on April 25.

Reading an agreed statement of facts to the court, Donnelly described Del Rosario’s history of using crystal methamphetamine, which began when he was living in the Philippines.

In 1997, Del Rosario moved to Canada after being sponsored by Santos, who treated her nephew like a son, Donnelly said.

Over the years, Del Rosario had numerous run-ins with police and health officials while high. Past girlfriends testified that Del Rosario would act erratically, become sexually aggressive and frightening after he had been taking drugs.

Eventually, Santos convinced her nephew to return to the Philippines to undergo drug treatment. In 2012, Del Rosario stopped using drugs, and lived in Ontario for a time before moving back to Vancouver in 2018, the court heard.

But in September 2022, Del Rosario met up with a friend and took “two puffs” of crystal meth. From that point on, his drug use escalated and he began to experience hallucinations, Donnelly said. Just five days before the killing, he was briefly hospitalized after he was spotted near the Northshore Auto Mall waving his arms, making noises and jumping on cars, the court heard. He was assessed by a psychiatrist the next morning and released.

On Dec. 12, Del Rosario smoked meth in his car. He was arrested that night for causing a disturbance at the McDonald’s on Westview Drive and taken into custody.

The officer who arrested him later testified he observed Del Rosario’s erratic behavior on a video feed in the RCMP jail cells, and that he was aware the accused had previously been detained under the Mental Health Act.

Police kept him in custody hoping he’d sober up within a few hours. As of 1 a.m., the officers believed he was fine, Donnelly said, and he was let go from the RCMP detachment.

“But he was not fine,” Donnelly said.

At around 1:30 a.m., he arrived at the apartment of his aunt, who had kicked him out in October for his drug use. Santos agreed to let him in. At the time, the accused felt the presence of the undead around him, smelled embalming fluid and thought he was being haunted, he later told psychiatrists.

Around 10:30 a.m., neighbours witnessed a disturbance coming from the apartment, and one called the police.

During a psychiatric assessment, “Del Rosario made various comments to suggest that he was fighting the devil, serpent or a ghost.”

In reality, he attacked his aunt in her kitchen, with his fists and a pair of scissors, delivering 27 sharp force injuries to Santos, Donnelly told the court.

When police arrived, they described Del Rosario as unresponsive, and he was tasered when he raised the scissors toward them, Donnelly said. Officers arrested Del Rosario and he has remained in custody since.

Accused 'understood the risks' of taking drugs, Crown says

A psychiatrist determined Del Rosario was experiencing methamphetamine induced psychosis and that “his symptoms likely impaired his ability to engage in a higher mental analysis of his actions,” Donnelly said, adding that he lacked the intent to commit murder.

But the Crown argued that Del Rosario’s moral culpability was still high, because he chose to use crystal meth, which he knew caused him to think and behave irrationally.

“He understood the risks that he took when taking the drugs,” Donnelly argued, adding that Del Rosario had witnessed how his life had deteriorated previously while using drugs.

But instead of 10 years, defence lawyer David Jardine said his client should face a jail term of five to six years because his moral culpability was not as high as suggested by the Crown.

There was nothing in Del Rosario’s behaviour that could have foreshadowed the act of violence that night, he said.

“There’s not the inherent awareness of risk-taking to the point where he’d be aware of the violence associated with [the drug use],” Jardine said.

When Del Rosario was given the opportunity to address the court directly, he acknowledged the pain he’d caused, and asked for forgiveness.

“I didn’t really mean to hurt my aunt, I know it’s hard to believe,” he said.

Del Rosario promised that he wouldn’t take drugs again.

“I really don’t want to hurt anybody,” he said.

Judge Warren Milman said he would give his decision on Thursday, June 13.