93-year-old war veteran from Hamilton gets 2 years in prison after machete attack | Toronto Star

THESTAR.COM · 4/22/2017 12:29:11 AM

Michael Yole, 93, was sentenced to two years for attempted murder in a January 25 machete attack on his daughter-in-law.  (DREAMSTIME)  

Michael Yole is not scared to go to prison.

“I’m (93) years old,” he says, sitting in small interview room inside the Barton jail — his home since his Jan. 25 arrest.

“Put yourself in my shoes ... (during the war) I sat listening to bombs exploding underwater, hearing torpedoes, wondering if it was my time.”

Yole lived a life filled with moments both remarkable — like his time in the Navy — and yet altogether ordinary. So it is unexpected that he has found himself an inmate at the Hamilton Wentworth Detention Centre after picking up a machete in the heat of a long-building family argument about money, and wielding it against his daughter-in-law.

“If I wanted to kill that girl I would have done it long ago.”

On Friday, Yole pleaded guilty to one count of attempted murder in the Jan. 25 attack and was sentenced to two years in prison, after credit for time served in pretrial custody, plus three years probation.

Ontario Court Justice George Gage called the incident a “tragedy of huge proportions.”

He noted that Yole is entitled to the benefit of the “exemplary life” he lived before the crime, but that cannot undo the “inexplicable and horrific violence.”

Court heard Yole’s middle child, son Marlyn Yole, and his wife Amanda had purchased the family’s Carlisle home on Progreston Road from his father in November 2015. The senior Yole was still living in the house, but amid a deteriorating relationship, he was looking to move into a Stoney Creek seniors home at the time of the attack.

On that day, Michael Yole was attempting to get his son to sign papers giving him money from the estate to cover medical and living expenses. Marlyn wouldn’t sign and an argument with Amanda and her 20-year-old daughter escalated.

Enraged, Michael went outside and grabbed a machete. He swung it at this daughter-in-law, hitting her head and then neck, before being physically restrained by Marlyn, whose hand was also cut.

In their victim impact statements, Marlyn and his family talk about facing anxiety and stress since the attack, and feeling isolated from family and friends.

“I was almost murdered in a hate crime,” Amanda said, later calling the “brutal attack” planned.

“I fear constantly that the deed will be completed as there is no stopping evil. At 93, what does he have to lose?”

Marlyn describes the attack as an attempted beheading. His family is now divided, with siblings no longer talking to him.

“The man has expressed many times in the years disdain and contempt for me.”

In court, Yole said he was “betrayed” by his son.

“I trusted him.”

In court, Yole’s lawyer, Asgar Manek, referenced “elder abuse” when discussing his client’s living situation before the crime, a term the prosecution disputed.

Assistant Crown attorney Warren Milko called the situation “nightmarish,” arguing that, as an intelligent man, Yole was well aware of the consequences of his violent actions. He called the attack “premeditated.”

The family rift was clear: Marlyn and his family sat on one side of the courtroom, Yole’s daughter on the other.

“It is a tragedy that a family is torn asunder,” Gage noted.

Days before the plea, Yole sits in his jail-issued orange jumpsuit inside the Barton jail. Over the course of more than three hours his life story spills out, from nearly five years old leaving his home in the village of Cabalovce in the former Czechoslovakia by wagon, train and ship, to growing up with two brothers all over Hamilton, to the Second World War and back to Hamilton again.

He found love as a teenager watching young Trudy speed skating at the old Barton Street Arena, eventually marrying her and raising three children. He studied at McMaster and Queen’s University and worked as an engineer at Stelco for 33 years.

The Progreston Road house — with its fruit trees and swimming pool built for Gertrude (Trudy) — was the Yole family home for about 45 years. It was after an ice storm on Christmas in 2013 that knocked out power and destroyed trees that Yole decided it was too much to maintain on his own. It’s because of the trees and brush that he had the machete, he said.

The family agreed Marlyn would buy the house, buying out the other two children’s share in the property. Michael was to stay there, keeping his room. But the relationship eroded and Yole alleges he was being mistreated, including having personal belongings thrown out and being asked to move rooms.

Yole said he was not trying to kill anyone, but lost his temper amid mounting stress.

“If I wanted to kill that girl, I would have done it long ago,” he said, his voice rising.

Yet he did plead guilty to attempted murder.

According to the agreed statement of facts, Yole said: “I wished I cut her head off” while his son restrained him and the family waited for police that day.

Two charges of assaulting Marlyn Yole and Amanda’s 20-year-old daughter, Carly Nevard, were withdrawn.

Outside court, the family declined to comment further.

In jail, Yole sleeps in an eight-man dorm. He was reading a book about Nazis in South America after the Second World War that he found at the jail.

He’s having trouble with his hearing aid and his dentures — he’s lost weight in part because he can’t eat some of the food. He’s due to see his cardiologist and other specialists for a myriad of health problems.

Yole says he’s aware of the social hierarchy inside the jail, but has been allowed to simply exist outside it.

“Who do I have to converse with?” he says. “I’m two to three times their age.”

Yet he has made a few connections. He wants to give old skates to the children of one inmate. And he’s holding onto a letter from another who thanked him for his advice: “Don’t go blaming the world; once and a while, look himself in the mirror.”

But mostly Yole is left alone with his memories.

Like the first time he tasted a banana as a boy — a gift from fishermen who took a liking to his mom while the family waited for paperwork to board a ship bound for Canada.

Crying, he later sings the song that was playing (“Now Is The Hour”) as his train left, taking him to war, Trudy holding his hand as a long as she could keep up.

“I’ll never forget it. We were just kids,” he says, head bowed. They were married at St. James Anglican Church on Ottawa Street after the war.

Yole was among the last convoy of ships returning to North America across the Atlantic after Germany surrendered. He recalled being told to come out on deck at midnight as all 60-or-so ships turned their lights on, lighting up the previously pitch-black waters.

“It was just a spectacular thing,” he said.

The last story Yole tells is Trudy’s death following a stroke nine years ago.

She collapsed getting up from the table. She regained consciousness in hospital, but soon slipped away. Yole cradled her head as it slumped forward and says he sat that way with her for her final hours.

“For nearly nine hours, I was holding her like that and you know, I couldn’t find a bloody word to say to her,” he said, crying, his eyes squeezed tightly shut.

His daughter would later explain to him he was in shock, but he beats himself up over not saying “all the things” he had to say to her.

For years on the anniversary of her death, he would put a memorial notice in The Spectator, quoting from the songs they would dance to — a hobby they loved to do together.

Of all the stories he told, this was the only one in which he expressed regret.

Yole wanted to die in his own home, but had already conceded that wasn’t going to happen before the fight.

“I love my son. I’ve loved him always,” he said of Marlyn, but added he believes his son “crossed the Rubicon” and there is no going back.

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