Edmonton

Steven Vollrath convicted of kidnapping, cutting off thumb of Richard Suter

Steven Vollrath has been found guilty of kidnapping and torturing an Edmonton man whose SUV drove across a restaurant patio in May 2013 and killed a two-year-old boy.

Vollrath found guilty on all charges in bizarre kidnapping in 2015

Richard Suter was beaten and had his thumb cut off during an attack in January 2015. (Supplied)

Steven Vollrath has been found guilty of kidnapping and torturing an Edmonton man whose SUV drove across a restaurant patio in May 2013 and killed a two-year-old boy.

The 33-year-old showed no emotion in an Edmonton courtroom Wednesday when a judge convicted him on four charges, including kidnapping, aggravated assault, possession of a dangerous weapon and impersonating a police officer. 

Vollrath's attack on Richard Suter plays out like a scene from a bad movie.

Steven Vollrath was found guilty Wednesday. (Supplied)

Suter and his wife, Gayska, went to bed early on January 22, 2015. Just before midnight, they were awakened by the repeated ringing of the doorbell. Someone then pounded on the front door of their south-Edmonton house.  

In his housecoat, Suter went downstairs and opened the door to three men wearing balaclavas and SWAT-type clothing. They said they were police officers and ordered Suter to come with them.

At the time, Suter was awaiting trial on charges of impaired driving and refusing to provide a breath sample for a May 2013 crash, when he drove his SUV through the glass wall of a restaurant patio. The crash killed two-year-old Geo Mounsef.

Ultimately, Suter was convicted on the latter charge and has already served his four-month sentence.

On the night he was abducted, Suter asked the men why he was being taken. He later testified that one man asked if he had "hurt anyone" and "whether the child died." 

Geo Mounsef was killed in May 2013 when an SUV driven by Richard Suter crashed through an outdoor patio on an Edmonton restaurant. (Family photo)

Suter was handcuffed and loaded into the front seat of a pickup truck. The men put a bag over his head but soon replaced it with a blindfold.  

It was cold and dark. Suter was only wearing a bathrobe and a pair of snow boots. After driving for 15 minutes, his abductors made him get out of the truck and kneel on the side of the road in a snowbank. They removed his blindfold and handcuffs, then pulled his left arm behind him.

One of the three kidnappers tried to cut off Suter's left thumb. When the first attempt failed, Suter heard one of men say, "Get another tool."

He later said the attacker used pruning shears to amputate his thumb.  

By the time Suter regained consciousness, the kidnappers were gone. He wandered for about 15 minutes before someone spotted him and stopped to help.  

The biggest break in the case came thanks to key evidence left behind by Vollrath: a fanny pack that contained his identification, cellphone, cash and some unique jewellery.  

Suter also picked Vollrath out of a photo lineup. 

"All of these circumstances are consistent with the conclusion that the accused was one of Mr. Suter's attackers," Judge Elizabeth Johnson wrote in her 17-page decision. "Taken as a whole, the evidence is inconsistent with any other rational conclusion."

The Suters were not in court to hear the verdict. When reached by telephone, both expressed relief but declined further comment.  

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 17, when the Suters will have the opportunity to deliver victim impact statements.  

No other charges in the case have been laid. Edmonton police say their investigation is ongoing.  

janice.johnston@cbc.ca

@cbcjanjohnston