Terror in the stairwell
He lured his victims into a well-known downtown parking garage and raped them. He may end up designated Hamilton’s latest dangerous offender
ENTICED BOTH women into the same secluded stairwell.
They followed him down three flights to the desolate basement of one of Hamilton’s busiest parking garages. Thick concrete walls ensured their cellphones didn’t work. There was no one to interrupt them.
They went with him because they wanted drugs.
They wound up getting raped by Adriel Johnathan James Cyrus.
He is a convicted sex offender. Soon a judge will decide if he is also a dangerous offender who may be locked away forever.
Only a handful of Hamilton criminals have been bad enough to earn a DO designation. In all of Canada, there were just 747 DOs at the end of 2017.
These are the most violent offenders with the greatest likelihood of recidivism.
They pose such a risk to public safety that a judge can hold a hearing to determine if they should be locked away with no specific release date.
Cyrus, found guilty of threatening death and two counts of sexual assault by Justice Anthony Leitch in February, may join the dubious group.
The attorney general consented to a DO application, which includes a mandatory psychiatric assessment. A hearing is in the process of being scheduled, likely for early next year.
Identity was not an issue at trial. Cyrus’s DNA was in his victims — whose identities are protected by a publication ban — and he admitted having sex with them.
His defence was that the sex was consensual.
Two strangers met him on the street and agreed to have sex with him in a dirty stairwell just moments later, he claimed.
From Mississauga, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 16.
His adult criminal record began in 2007 with a sexual assault conviction. A year later, it was assault with a weapon and breach of probation.
In 2010, he was convicted of uttering threats. In 2014, sexual assault and uttering threats.
The year after, he was convicted of sexual interference, a charge pertaining to the touching of people under the age of 16 for a sexual purpose.
Sometimes, like during his trial in January, Cyrus, 32, can be articulate, polite and soft-spoken.
He chose to be sworn in on the Qur’an. His Facebook page names him as “Adriel X” and he calls himself a “foot soldier at Nation of Islam.”
“I am striving to be upright to him who originated the heavens and the earth,” his page says, “and I am an active member who is mastering being a well-made man and not just a male.”
He describes himself as a “professional telemarketer.”
Under the heading “Interested In” he lists one thing: Women.
At a more recent court appearance, Cyrus was agitated and loud. He muttered to himself then flapped his arms and shouted, “I’m getting pissed off,” from the prisoner’s box.
The swing in his behaviour and mental state is extreme.
His physical presence is a constant, though. Cyrus prides himself on his muscular body.
He easily overpowered his victims.
WEEPS the moment she takes the witness stand and struggles to pull herself together.
“I got this,” she says.
Her evidence of what happened Sunday, June 12, 2016, unravels slowly.
“I wanted drugs,” she begins. “Heroin.”
Her usual dealer was in Toronto, but AB’s car broke down, so she went to Jackson Square in search of a fix. She honed in on the stairs just west of the main doors at King and James. It was late afternoon and she was desperate.
“I wasn’t feeling well because I was coming off, so I wanted to get more.”
She asked a stranger if he had heroin. He said he did and she told him she wanted to buy $200 worth. She had cash.
He told her the drugs were in a car in a nearby parking garage. He would take her.
He was a black man, maybe fivefoot-10, short hair, no accent. He wore a grey hoodie with the hood up.
“We walked down King Street. We walked past The Works ... then we crossed.”
As they walked, they smoked a joint the man had.
He told AB, now 30, she was “too young and pretty to be on heroin.”
They entered Summers Lane, the short street running from Main to King between FirstOntario Concert Hall and the Convention Centre and the Art Gallery of Hamilton.
Just behind the AGH there is a brown, heavy door. It leads to concrete stairs heading down, three floors. At the bottom is a landing and a door with a small window. It opens to a parking garage.
Cyrus tells court a friend introduced him to that stairwell. They drank beer there.
“Ever since then,” he says, “whenever I wanted to smoke weed or drink or whatever, privately, I’d go there.”
AB says it was a “secluded place.” She saw no cars. No people. Perfect for buying drugs.
“We stayed in that stairwell,” she says. “It wasn’t all that big.”
She stood against the wall. The man sat on the stairs. He asked AB if she would have sex with him. Her answer was clear.
She moved toward the door. He stood.
“It doesn’t matter,” AB recalls him saying in a low voice. “I’m gonna get it anyways.”
“He pushed my shoulders against the wall. My head hit the wall. He kind of brought me down to the floor ... At first I tried (to fight him off) and then at a certain point, I just gave up. I don’t know if ‘accepted’ is the right word, but I was just trying to get through it. I knew it was going to happen. He had my arms and I didn’t get away. I couldn’t get away.”
She didn’t scream. It seemed pointless.
He kissed her face and neck while he raped her.
Cyrus tells it differently from the witness stand.
“I can’t remember if I motioned for her to come over to me or if I guided her by her hand, but she came and she sat on my lap. And while she was sitting on my lap I was rubbing her thighs and kind of exploring her, and she did not ... say she wanted me to stop or anything like that.”
Cyrus testifies he told AB he was on Clopixol, an anti-psychotic medication that gave him long-lasting erections that became painful if he didn’t have intercourse. (The Crown later pointed out Clopixol actually reduces libido.) Cyrus says he asked if AB would have sex with him to alleviate his problem.
“She said yes. She said she could help me with the problem I was having and she was willing to have sex with me.”
“We had a chemistry with each other,” he adds.
AB says when Cyrus finished raping her, he pulled his pants up and left out the door into the parking lot.
She lay there a moment before getting up, dressing and ascending the stairs to Summers Lane.
“I walked home,” she tells court. For the next few hours, she spun. She used all the cocaine in the house. It was a lot.
“I just laid in bed. I was angry. I just wanted to not feel sad.”
Police picked her up later, screaming at a construction site. Officers took her to hospital for treatment and a rape kit.
“It was humiliating,” AB says. “Painful. Scary.”
HOPED to make a new friend. She finished her shift at a downtown telemarketing company and waited for a bus at the corner of James and Main. It was around 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016.
SD, now 22, was sitting on the curb chatting on the phone with her mom when a man she didn’t know asked for a cigarette.
She gave him one and he sat beside her. They began to talk.
She told him about her job and they discussed sports.
“He went by A.J.,” she testifies. “I told him I got off work early and I would love to go home and smoke a spliff because I have got my (medical marijuana) licence. And then he told me he already had a joint rolled up and he had weed and he knew a good place to go and smoke.”
SD had just moved to Hamilton and didn’t know many people. She decided to go with A.J.
“I saw it, hopefully, as an opportunity to find someone as a friend or just a cool person to hang out with,” she tells the court.
“He told me that he knew of this spot and it was Summers Lane and it’s right past the art gallery and it’s an underground parking garage.”
He took her there. Brown door. Flight of stairs descending. At the bottom, a landing and a door. Her phone didn’t work there.
“It was very dirty. Very claustrophobic. There was a small window on the door, but nobody came.”
It was perfect for smoking weed, she thought.
He sat on the stairs. She took a seat to his right. He rolled a joint and they shared it. They talked about music, then each had a cigarette.
“He flicked his off the wall. I flicked mine off the wall. Both of our cigarettes ricocheted off the wall and that’s when, all of a sudden, I got this weird type of glance. A very, very disturbing one. Like something was going to happen. But I didn’t know what to do. And then all of a sudden, with his left hand he touched my boob.”
She pushed his hand away and said “No.”
“That’s when he tossed me over and rolled me over onto the ground ... He was on top of me ... I had no way to move.”
Several times she describes, with obvious revulsion, how his cheek was pressed against hers. She struggled hard when he tried to kiss her mouth.
SD says A.J. took off her shirt, pulled up her bra, removed her shoes, pants and underwear.
“He was butt naked except for his socks.”
He raped her.
Cyrus’s testimony differs. He admits leading her to the same stairwell where he took AB.
“While we were walking there, she was telling me … ‘I like the way you train so hard’ and I was, like, ‘OK, thanks.’ Then she also said she wanted me to come to her home ... While we were walking, as well, I asked her if she wanted to have sex, and she said yes.”
Cyrus says at the bottom of the stairwell he told SD: “‘I prefer to have sex first and then we can smoke weed.’ And she agreed with me ... She pulled down her pants ... When I ejaculated, we stopped. We went back to the stairs, sat down, were talking and, um, I rolled up some weed ... I told her that I was hungry and that I was going to go buy a burrito, a beef burrito from 7-Eleven.”
He says SD asked if he would “be her guy.”
“That was the language she used and I said ‘Sure.’ And I asked her if she would be my girl and she said ‘Sure.’”
SD says Cyrus told her to leave the stairwell first. She scrambled into her clothes. Back on the street she walked briskly. But A.J. caught up to her.
“He came right behind me and tried to kiss me. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. He told me not to say anything and he grabbed my ass ... He told me he was already on probation ... He was recently in Barton jail.” If she told anyone about the sex, “he’d come kill me,” she recalls him saying.
HAS SEVEN siblings, some share a father, others don’t.
His parents divorced when he was about eight and he lived with his mom, who didn’t have much.
“Things that I wanted, I didn’t really have,” he tells court. “I had to get it myself in ways I’m not proud of now.”
Cyrus did not finish high school and his mom kicked him out of the house. He was homeless for a bit. He moved to Hamilton with his mom five years ago.
It is common for Cyrus to ask random women for sex and for them to agree, he testifies.
“It’s nothing new to me. I don’t know, I guess for some individuals that doesn’t really happen, but for me there’s been multiple occasions when I meet a female and on the same day we have intercourse consensually.”
decided neither woman consented to sex with Cyrus and found him guilty of sexual assault on AB, sexual assault on SD and uttering a death threat to SD.
Leitch points to a number of “significant similarities” between the rapes.
In his reasons for believing the women, Leitch writes: “The improbability of coincidence is strong. I find it highly unlikely that two women unknown to one another would both consent to sex with the accused, within minutes of first meeting him, on a dirty concrete floor outside a parking garage where they could be discovered in the act at any moment.”
Cyrus says he asked if AB would have sex with him to alleviate his problem. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 16. His adult criminal record began in 2007 with a sexual assault conviction. A year later, it was assault with a weapon and breach of probation. In 2010, he was convicted of uttering threats. In 2014, sexual assault and uttering threats. Her usual dealer was in Toronto, but AB’s car broke down, so she went to Jackson Square in search of a fix. She scrambled into her clothes. Back on the street she walked briskly. But A.J. caught up to her.
Adriel Cyrus calls himself a “foot soldier at Nation of Islam.”
Just behind the Art Gallery of Hamilton, there is a stairwell where sexual assaults occurred, victims said. AB called it a “secluded place.” She saw no cars. No people. Perfect for buying drugs.