Calling it a “senseless” act and a “brutal crime,” a BC Supreme Court justice sentenced Gerald Dolman on Friday to life in prison with no chance of parole for 11 years for the brazen daylight killing of a man downtown Chilliwack last year.
Robert Splitt was stabbed at least 52 times in front of dozens of witnesses in front of the Save-On-Foods on May 6, 2016.
The incident was confusing for those in the downtown area at the time as simultaneously someone was struck by a train in an unrelated incident at the Young Road crossing. And before the stabbing, Dolman struck cyclist Norm McDermid and also caused a multi-car accident.
Defence lawyer Chris Terepocki said the 65-year-old had spent tens of thousands of dollars over prior months buying drugs for a woman named Rebecca Burns in exchange for sex. They even formed somewhat of a relationship. But Burns was Splitt’s girlfriend and on the day of the incident, a neighbour told Dolman she had stolen $600 from him.
“Mr. Dolman believed these two were operating as a team to pilfer money from him,” Terepocki said.
Dolman pursued Splitt in his car, crashed into his car in the parking lot at the Save-On. Burns fled the vehicle while Dolman stabbed Splitt through the window of the car. The 49-year-old victim got away briefly but Dolman pursued him, continuing to stab him even on the ground, in front of horrified onlookers at the plaza.
Witnesses flagged down a police officer who attended to find Dolman covered in blood standing over Splitt’s body. Neither the officer nor paramedics were able to revive Splitt who died at the scene.
A trial was avoided with a surprise guilty plea in October.
Crown counsel asked for 12 years before parole eligibility, Dolman asked for 10.
BC Supreme Court Justice Palbinder Shergill split the difference with 11 years, adding a lifetime weapons ban and a lifetime no-contact order with Rebecca Burns, the woman in the car with Splitt at the time of the attack, and the central figure in the romantic triangle.
Shergill pointed out the killing was the result of a fit of rage by a man who now “will spend most of the remainder of his golden years behind bars.”
As at all court appearances, Dolman wore the standard prison-issue orange track suit, and sat in the prisoner’s box slouching against the wall with his arms crossed, eliciting no emotion at any point.
Shergill listed the victims beyond Splitt in the crime, which included the dozens of people who likely experienced trauma watching the stabbing, McDermid who experienced permanent injuries, but most of all Splitt’s children and grandchildren.
“There is no sentence that will bring Mr. Splitt back to his family,” she said.
After the sentencing Friday, friends of Splitt said the sentence wasn’t long enough for what they say was a pre-meditated stabbing of a man who did nothing wrong to Dolman.