The Telegram (St. John's)
Parents talk about trauma of son’s injuries in attack at house party
On the March 2016 night her son almost died, Michelle Bailey was out of the province on holiday. She and her fiancé had gotten wind — she won’t say how — of a party happening at their home in Southlands and called to speak to their three boys.
Bailey’s oldest stepson said the younger one had thrown a party and too many people had shown up. He was trying to get them to leave, but it was proving difficult.
Bailey says she and her fiancé told him to tell everyone that he would call the police if they didn’t leave.
Fifteen minutes later, Bailey and her partner called back and got no answer. She says they tried multiple times, until finally her oldest stepson picked up the phone, crying. The police and paramedics were at the house, he said, and Zachary, Bailey’s then-21-year-old son, was hurt.
“I said, ‘What do you mean he got hurt? Is he OK?’ He said, ‘I don’t know. There’s a lot of blood,’” Bailey recalls. “Every muscle in my body just fell. I was a mess.”
Bailey called Zachary’s father, Rodney Squires, who raced to the hospital with his daughter, arriving before the ambulance. When Zachary arrived, the severity of his injuries was evident. The province’s chief medical examiner would later tell the court Zachary lost about three litres of blood, having been stabbed seven times.
“I was in the emergency room, holding his hand, watching them pump six pints of blood into him and they couldn’t find where the bleed was coming from,” Squires says. “The surgeon came in and looked right into his face and said, ‘Zach, if we don’t take you in the operating room right now, you will die.’ Those were her exact words.”
Bailey took the next flight home and arrived at the hospital the following night. Zachary remained in the intensive care unit for two days, and spent eight days in hospital in total, recovering from stab wounds, a collapsed lung and the beating he suffered.
Days later, police made a number of arrests in connection with the attack: four teenagers, who can’t be named because of their ages, were charged with aggravated assault and have pleaded not guilty. Robert Mills, now 24, was charged with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon — brass knuckles — possession of a weapon and a breach of probation. The trial for the youths is ongoing, but Mills eventually pleaded guilty. Until recently, Bailey, Squires and their family attended every court session, but it finally took its toll.
“I feel like I’m reliving it,” Bailey says, speaking specifically about a cellphone video recovered from one of the partygoers that showed some of the attack. “That video where I physically saw my son almost die is etched in my brain. I’ve seen that no less than 100 times, on my own and in the courtroom. The 911 calls are very hard to listen to. I can hear my stepsons crying and emotional and I hear my son in the background in pain. It’s very hard. It’s very emotionally draining. But, of course, I wanted to be there for the verdict and the sentencing.”
On Wednesday, Bailey and Squires were among Zachary’s family members in the St. John’s courtroom when Mills was sentenced to three years in prison and three years of probation for his role in the attack on Zachary.
The Crown was pushing for a sentence of between five and seven years, while Mills’ defence argued that two years and probation would be sufficient.
In bringing down his sentence, Judge David Orr noted Zachary’s injuries were severe and described the attack as “extreme,” but noted Mills was not responsible for the stabbing, which caused the most lifethreatening injuries.
Orr said Mills, who had been doing ecstasy and drinking on the night of the party, had been making an effort to work on substance abuse and anger issues while in prison.
Bailey says she’s OK with the sentence (which also includes no contact with her family, a DNA order, a 10-year weapons prohibition and mandatory counselling if deemed suitable), but not with Mills’ attempts to apologize.
During his sentencing hearing earlier this month, Mills told the court he wanted to apologize to Zachary and his family, as well as his own.
“If I thought he was sincere, I think I’d accept it,” Bailey says, and Squires agrees. “If he had come out with an attitude of, ‘Oh my God, what did I do, I’m so sorry,’ then absolutely I would accept his apology. But he didn’t,” she says. “At this point, do I accept his apology? No, because I don’t think he means it.”
Zachary needed a couple of months off work and plenty of physiotherapy to recover from his injuries, Bailey says, and is left with significant scarring all over his torso from the wounds he suffered that night. She says his life is more or less back to normal and he doesn’t want to talk about the attack or the court cases, preferring to push it out of his mind and move on. Bailey worries that might one day come back to haunt him.
“(Those responsible for the attack) don’t realize what they’ve done to the fellow,” Squires says. “They absolutely don’t have a clue what they’ve done to the guy. They really don’t.”