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By ANDREA SANDS, EDMONTON SUN
Aug 1, 2003
A city man in a gruesome disguise who robbed and terrorized Jehovah’s Witnesses with a sword at a religious service was suffering “major depression,” court heard yesterday.
“You certainly have empathy for his wife and his children,” victim Bill Sokolik said outside provincial court yesterday where Anthony Burton, 42, pleaded guilty to robbery, possessing dangerous weapons and wearing a disguise.
Sokolik was one of 65 worshippers in the Kingdom Hall at 5004 121 Ave. on Sept. 3, when Burton forced his way inside carrying a two-foot-long samurai sword.
Burton “tormented” worshippers, saying, “I am the evil you’ve read about,” and, “Why are you reading the f—- Bible? It didn’t do anything for me,” Crown prosecutor Tony Mah said during yesterday’s sentencing arguments. At the time, Burton’s head was wrapped in medical bandages covered in silicone caulking and makeup. He wore large sunglasses, a knee-length overcoat and surgical gloves.
Burton ordered men in the congregation to collect the worshippers’ cash, bank and credit cards and PIN numbers, and held the sword across one man’s throat, Mah added.
Police evacuated the victims and seized a knife and a mace after a woman called 911 from a cellphone. Burton tried but failed to grab two women, even as cops aimed their guns and ordered him to drop the sword.
“In response, the accused replied, ‘I don’t want to. Shoot me, shoot me,’ ” Mah said.
Sokolik – who first opened the hall door to Burton’s sword – told media he still has “vivid memories” of the robbery.
In a videotaped statement to police, Burton broke down crying and said he was desperate for money. The toolmaker said he’d been off the anti-depressant drug Paxil and another prescribed drug to combat his “shyness” for several days before the robbery.
Burton said he targeted the Witnesses because “I knew they were good people … I wouldn’t have to hurt them.”
Court heard psychological reports show the dad of three young kids suffered from “major depression” at the time.
The Crown wants Burton – held 11 months in custody – to serve four to five more years in prison. The defence wants two more years or a conditional sentence in the community. A decision is expected in the fall.