‘He frightened the hell out of me’

Rosie Mullaley
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Man who swung axe as NL Power employees were disconnecting his power gets house arrest

Edward Eugene Layman of St. John’s talks with his lawyer, Ken Hollett, before the start of his trial at provincial court in St. John’s Monday. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram

They were there to disconnect the power from a house, but two Newfoundland Power workers ended up getting quite a jolt when the homeowner came out swinging an axe.

“He frightened the hell out of me,” John Whelan testified Monday at provincial court in St. John’s in the trial of Edward Eugene Layman.

Following the day-long trial, Layman was found guilty of assault with a weapon and uttering threats. Judge David Orr sentenced the 62-year-old to 60 days of house arrest, with a year’s probation.

Layman was arrested after an incident that happened at his house at 10 Prim Place March 28, 2012.

Whelan and co-worker Don Murphy were assigned to go there after it was discovered Layman was 150 days late paying his electric bill.

When the men knocked on the front door and got no answer, they went to the back garden to disconnect the power meter box.

That’s when Layman came out yelling — angry they were cutting off his power, they said.

“He was disturbed,” Whelan said. “He just wouldn’t listen to us.

“He was loud. He was aggressive in his tone. He just didn’t want us to be there.”

Layman demanded they leave the property.

Layman told them he was on social assistance and offered to pay them $50 towards his bill, but it wasn’t enough to cover the amount required from the $247 bill. Murphy said they needed at least $150.

He then told the men if they didn’t leave the property, “Someone’s going to get hurt over this. Someone’s going underground.”

After more discussion, that’s when Layman went back inside the house and came out with an axe.

With Whelan standing a few feet from the meter box, Layman swung the axe and knocked it off the side of the house.

At that point, the men backed off and Murphy called police.

“We tried to resolve the situation,” Murphy testified. “He was frustrated with the system.”

Murphy said he didn’t take Layman’s initial comments as personal threats, but when asked by Crown prosecutor David D’Intino if he felt threatened when Layman came out with the axe, Murphy replied, “Absolutely.”

When Layman took the stand, he said he had been upset and did tell them to leave the yard, but couldn’t remember uttering threatening comments to them.

He said Whelan had been to the house before to collect money and always settled for $50.

“He would always leave on a good note,” said Layman, who had lived in the house with his 17-year-old son.

But this time, he said, Murphy did the talking and demanded the full amount of the bill owing.

“There was no getting through to him,” Layman said.

He admitted he came out with an axe and swung it at the meter box, but said he didn’t aim it at either of the men.

He said after hitting the meter box, “I realized what I had done, so I went inside and waited for the police to show up.”

In rendering his decision, Orr said the simple fact that Layman had the axe and used it was enough to warrant a guilty verdict.

“Your actions were unacceptable,” the judge said. “It’s not the kind of behaviour society tolerates.”

However, he pointed out that Layman does have mental issues — paranoia and depression — and that rehabilitation, instead of deterrence — must be the primary consideration in sentencing him.

Orr also said to Layman, “While your demeanour was frightening and intimidating, you did not intend to injure the men.”

Conditions of Layman’s sentence include that he participate in any counselling session his supervisor recommends, that he abstain from alcohol, adhere to a curfew and have no contact with the Newfoundland Power employees.



Twitter: @TelyCourt

Organizations: Newfoundland Power, NL Power

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Recent comments

  • Sylvia J. Wilson
    November 26, 2015 - 21:36

    I have never forgot this and putting this man is jail because the government has to keep gouging everyone with the hyrdro bills is doing things backwards. It's the government people who keep approving the hike in rates that should be in jail.

  • Sylvia J. Wilson
    November 26, 2015 - 21:35

    As soon as anyone asks for any assistance, understanding or help they are AUTOMATICALLY labelled as a smoker, drinker, druggie, gambler and if they are NONE of those they must be mental. It's all THEIR fault if they can't pay their bills. By labelling people that way and ASSUMING they must be wasting their money is just a damn excuse to sweep the problem under the rug. And the people who are disabled, on Assistance, don't smoke, gamble, do drugs or have an addiction of any kind and have been deemed sane. What the excuse to ignore it then?

  • Les
    May 08, 2013 - 10:27

    Please don't act as if this wouldn't happen to anyone - and making judgement on whether this man is gambling or consuming alcohol is not necessary. As a student on a fixed income who made payments to my bill when I could, I have also had my power cut off. Sometime you really do have to choose between rent and food or power. Why pay your power bill if you're going to be on the streets? Not everyone is fortunate to have a high income, and it is hard. I have no mental health issues that I know of but if faced with this circumstance I probably would lose my mind a little as well.

  • rick
    May 07, 2013 - 13:53

    Thats it i have a great plan now from some of the readers i am buying an axe and running up all my bills and i will be looking for anyone coming on my property. Great idea let the tax payer pay his bill does this guy gamble or drink or smoke if so cut back on all 3 and pay your bills

  • CheerBear
    May 07, 2013 - 12:53

    I can't believe I have to pay for things! Where's my axe, too! I want the deal where $50 magically settles a $200 light bill. I seriously can't believe that people are blaming newfoundland power when this guy was 5 months past due on his bill. Why don't we ALL stop paying our light bill, if newfoundland power is just supposed to let everything go because someone kicks up a stink about it.

    • Happily Retired
      May 07, 2013 - 13:47

      Cheerbear, Please check your facts. It was Nfld. Power which set the "magical"precedent for electricians to negotiate account payments by cash, not "this guy." I'm amazed they, and their union, would let this corporation do this to them, but that's another issue. His power was cut off in the winter for a little over $200.00, while he was offering to make some payment. I'm sure that many others often go over that in just one month. If they miss a payment, are they all cut off? As far as the axe goes, even the judge acknowledged that he didn't intend to harm the men. But I guess his opinion is irrelevant when you have to defend the mighty corporation. We shoud all be kicking up a stink about how that crowd does business.

    • cj
      November 27, 2015 - 23:14

      cheerbear: who says the $50 settled the $200 bill? he wanted to make a $50 payment towards what he owed, they wanted $150 Please read the story before you make comments that make you look ignorant.

  • dm
    May 07, 2013 - 12:11

    This is absolutely despicable. I am disgusted by the actions of NL Power and by ignorant comments made by readers- or trolls, I guess (with extremely bad grammar and spelling, but that's a whole other conversation). A corporation doesn't handle an overdue bill by showing up and asking for cash. For one thing, who has cash these days at their finger tips? Cash is passe in most instances as we are an electronic society. I am usually more articulate than this, but I am speechless at how poorly this man has been treated by the Courts and NLP. Very sad for him and his son.

  • Sheila
    May 07, 2013 - 11:17

    Jay, The employees did call the police and I feel that anybody that would act in such a manner as this gentleman no matter what his financial condition is a danger to the public or anybody that might ring his doorbell. I can feel for his situation but I feel that the safety of the public comes first. Help in a hospital for his emotinal problems could perhaps help him all around. Poverty is no excuse for stating as said he did in the article " “Someone’s going to get hurt over this. Someone’s going underground.” That is a threat of violence and he did have a weapon.

    • Jay
      May 07, 2013 - 13:54

      Sheila, So now your a psychiatrist and a lawyer? It must be great to have your delusions of adequacy. Nfld. Power must be ecstatic to have you on their side. Maybe you can convince them to handle their "cash or cut-off" transactions for next winter

  • dm
    May 07, 2013 - 11:16

    This is absolutely despicable. I am disgusted by the actions of NL Power and by ignorant comments made by readers. A corporation doesn't handle an overdue bill by showing up and asking for cash. For one thing, who has cash these days at their finger tips? Cash is passe in most instances as we are an electronic society. I am usually more articulate than this, but I am speechless at how poorly this man has been treated by the Courts and NLP. Very sad for him and his son.

  • crista
    May 07, 2013 - 11:04

    So what you are saying is SHEILA is that you sent him to the professionals and experts so he can pay his light bill on time???? do that also go for any one that do not have the problems they are saying this man has???? not only SHEILA.

    • Sheila
      May 07, 2013 - 12:16

      This is I feel a possible situation where there is more than poverty and the inability to pay one bill. Why is the man on social assistance is it because there is no work available that he qualifies for is it because of anger issues or other emotional concerns that pervents him for holdling employment. The issue of why he exploded is not as important as why he could not handle the stress. Anybody with the inability to cope that causes them to act in a violent or antisocial manner requires mental health attention to determine if there are issues other than the person is just a bully with a sense of entitlement involved.

  • Jack
    May 07, 2013 - 10:19

    Maybe if power companies have low income energy assistance programs similar to United States, many individuals on fix incomes, like Mr. Layman, would not face the prospect of losing power or resorting to violence in the first place. Shame on the Newfoundland and Labrador Government and Supreme Court of Canada for allowing power companies to constantly gouge every single penny from their customers and not providing rate assistance programs for low income citizens.

  • Chantal
    May 07, 2013 - 10:11

    Facts and understanding have no place when the lynch mob is on the march.

  • Tammy
    May 07, 2013 - 09:32

    Wonder how much he owes the liquor and beer stores???

  • Maggy Carter
    May 07, 2013 - 09:18

    It is hard to fully understand this conviction unless you are in the courtroom and know all the facts. Clearly Layman was guilty of something but, at least based on media accounts, it is doubtful he was guilty of assault with a weapon. Layman did not swing the axe at the NL Power employees nor did he threaten to do so. He used the axe to destroy the meter box. Judge Orr acknowledged that Layman "did not intend to injure the men" but concluded nevertheless that his use of the axe for any purpose amounted to assault. I'm not sure this satisfies, or at least should satisfy, the standard of proof for assault with a weapon. But my bigger issue with this story is the behaviour of NL Power and its employees. Anytime you approach a home for the purpose of cutting power, you know there is potential for this kind of reaction. In their initial encounter with Layman, they report him as having been 'loud', 'disturbed' and 'aggressive'. That should have been their cue to back off to avoid an escalation. Indeed I very much suspect their own internal protocols require them to do exactly that, and where necessary to seek the presence of a peace officer. This story not only gives NL Power a black eye, it reflects very badly on a government that regularly revels in the oil soaked riches that have washed our shores. It isn't merely the case that one segment of our society has been left behind in the wealth game, it is that they have been materially hurt by it. Contrary to popular convention, not all boats have been floated. If you're not part of it, you lose. As rents, utilities, food, transportation and almost everything else are inflated, those on fixed incomes fall further and further behind. This is the ugly side of oil. One has to wonder what mind-set this particular bit of ugliness has left with the 17 year old son living in the house with Mr. Layman? Is this how the seeds of resentment, hostility, and social exclusion are planted in our young? This and the story of the 82 year old charged with stealing food in Corner Brook should give our society some pause for thought.

  • Jay
    May 07, 2013 - 09:01

    Sheila, I hope nobody related to you ever gets sick, or falls upon bad times. You're being totally disingenuous by talking about children with chocolate bars. These were two grown men, cutting off his lights. That must be a great power trip. If they were that fightened, all they had to do was leave and phone the police, who are trained to deal with these circiumstances. If anything had happened, Is Nfld Power, now sending electrical technicians to negotiate accounts payables for them. (where's the union when you need it?)Please note, it had happened in the past. Nfld Power totally mishandled this, as it has many times. If anything had happened, it would have been their fault.

  • sparky
    May 07, 2013 - 08:37

    I thought newfoundland power employees were like ninja turtles?,thats why they get paid the BIG bucks.

  • The power is your money
    May 07, 2013 - 08:30

    If nalcor and government ever wants to pay off muskratfalls then people will have to pay their bills. They don't make money off of the power remember, they make it and take it from the people of the province. We only have enough to give away to other business and provinces. MRF's will always be the power mega project that NL forgot we needed.

  • Sheila
    May 07, 2013 - 08:05

    He then told the men if they didn’t leave the property, “Someone’s going to get hurt over this. Someone’s going underground.” He had an axe that he was swinging but of course the poor man is depressed so lets just give him house arrest and make him see a counselor. What a load of bull! Send him to the Waterford and let the doctors there determine the extent of his mental illness. God help the child that goes to his house selling those school chocolate bars that he cannot afford.