WARNING: This story contains graphic details that some readers may find upsetting.
More than 40 years after their childhoods were stolen from them, five people who were repeatedly sexually assaulted by Chris Snow left a St. John’s courtroom feeling at least a little bit vindicated Wednesday.
Snow, 68, was sentenced to 10 years in jail for what he did to the five of them as children in the 1960s and 1970s.
“It’s a very happy day. Very happy,” one of the female complainants said outside the courtroom. “We weren’t able to be saved as children, but we were able to save the children of the future and that’s a victory. Ten years is good. I wanted more but I figured at this stage, any time he has to serve behind bars is good time. Justice has been served.”
Snow is known to many in the St. John’s area as the man with the Christmas truck: he often drove around the metro area in a pickup decorated with coloured lights and tree boughs, blaring music.
In sentencing Snow on 12 counts involving indecent assaults and acts of gross indecency, Justice William Goodridge told him his actions were “cruel and despicable, among the worst things you could ever do,” and noted Snow had preyed on his victims, some as young as six years old, while they had no way of escaping.
“As far as I’m concerned, you took advantage of them in their own beds, where children should feel the safest,” Goodridge said. “You saw it here yourself: they’ve lived their whole lives with trauma. In my view, from hearing their victim impact statements, you took their whole childhoods away from them.”
The five complainants — male and female — testified individually about what Snow had done to them as children. He fondled them in their beds while also fondling himself, they said, and would sometimes leave them money. He tried to force the boys’ mouths and hands on his genitals and attempted to anally penetrate one boy a number of times, starting when the boy was nine. Goodridge noted two of the children were physically injured by the assaults, which happened on a near-daily basis.
In one incident, Snow locked a boy in a closet until he agreed to his demands.
Goodridge noted there were a few mitigating factors in the case, particularly when it comes to Snow’s own childhood. The court heard he was raised in an abusive home, which Goodridge called a “house of horrors.” Snow had received no parental guidance, Goodridge said, and his father had taken him out of school in Grade 2 to “essentially be a slave,” forcing him to perform strenuous chores and beating him into submission with a stove poker.
“I say it was mitigating because your parents didn’t intervene and you had nothing to tell you right from wrong,” Goodridge said, “But this was a long time ago.”
Snow cried while the judge summarized the details.
The closest Snow had come to expressing remorse for his crimes, Goodridge noted, was when he spoke at his sentencing hearing, saying he understood he had to do jail time and promised not to be back before the court.
Goodridge noted the violent nature of Snow’s assaults on the children and their lifelong effects, saying the victims’ “raw emotional pain was obvious when they testified in court.”
“At a time when other children were enjoying playful innocence of youth, these five victims were forced into lives of fear and depravity at the hands of someone from whom they could not escape,” Goodridge said.
In addition to the 10-year prison term (minus credit for the 65 days he has been in custody awaiting sentencing), Goodridge ordered Snow to provide a DNA sample, banned him from firearms for 10 years after his release, and ordered him to be named to the sex offender list. He also banned Snow for life from attending a public park or swimming area where children under 16 could be expected, as well as daycares, school grounds, playgrounds and community centres; banned him from seeking employment or volunteer work that involves being in a position of trust or authority of children under 16, and banned him from using a computer to communicate with anyone under 16.
Snow’s son, David Snow, 35, is also facing child sexual abuse charges, in unrelated incidents said to have happened between 2011 and 2015. David Snow has been charged with two counts of sexual assault, two counts of sexual interference, three counts of exposing his genitals to a child under 16, 10 counts of observing a person for a sexual purpose and one count each of making child pornography and possessing child pornography. David Snow is also in custody, and will make his next appearance in Supreme Court in January, at which time he’s expected to make a plea deal.
Chris Snow’s victims said they have no regrets about going to the police with what he had done to them, even though it was years ago.
One of them said she’d like to become an advocate for those who’ve suffered sexual abuse, and had advice for others who may be contemplating going to the police.
“Please don’t wait 50 years,” she said. “If it’s happening to you, come forward. You will never be alone. Take your power back.”