Ontario man who built 'sinister' confinement room sentenced
Robert Edwin White intended to kidnap victim and hold her in small room
A man who built a confinement room in an abandoned Pickering, Ont., farmhouse with the intention of kidnapping a woman he blamed for the break-up of his marriage has received the maximum sentence of two years less a day.
Robert Edwin White, 44, has served eight months already, meaning he'll spend another 16 months in jail.
The sentence, which was handed down in an Oshawa, Ont., courtroom on Thursday, stirred strong emotions in White's father, Jim, as he left the courtroom with his wife, Carol.
"He's a good person. He's a good father," said Jim White, his voice breaking, adding that his son didn't get to where he is on his own.
"It took 15 years and three other people to put him where he is today. And I don't want people to ever forget that."
White said that while he is disappointed in the sentence, it may be for the best thing for his son in the long run.
"He's going to go, hopefully, where he can get the help that he needs."
Room built for ex-wife's friend
White had previously pleaded guilty to a charge of break and enter with intent to commit an indictable offence.
He built the room in the basement of a farmhouse on Concession Road 7, intending to kidnap Gwen Armstrong.
Armstrong and her husband provided support to White's former wife, Patricia Gallagher, during the couple's lengthy and bitter divorce.
Neither woman was present at the courtroom on Thursday. They told the court last month that they live in fear.
Judge Mary Teresa Devlin described the room, which was discovered by contractors in mid-December last year, as "sinister."
The court determined that White, who blamed Armstrong for the break-up of his marriage, planned to kidnap and confine her and then demand ransom money.
Devlin stressed that the sentence handed down was not for what White would have done, but rather for his repeated break-ins into the abandoned farmhouse over an 18-month period, and the fact that he built an inescapable prison to kidnap and imprison someone.
House went down in flames
On Jan. 6, 2012, the farm home containing the room mysteriously burned to the ground.
Det. Const. Malcolm Wilson with Durham Regional Police said Thursday that the arson investigation is ongoing, and that White has not been ruled out as a suspect.
When it was first discovered, the small room — no more than four metres wide — appeared freshly painted and contained several jugs of water.
Images of the room showed what looked like a collapsible locker-room bench, with chains hanging from the ceiling. The doors were crafted from layers of lumber.
Wilson refused to discuss the safety measures that police have and will put in place, but did say that the women are doing fine.
"They're OK. Obviously they're concerned but they're OK."
With a report from the CBC's Lucy Lopez