CALGARY - They met in Winnipeg, two young men eager to head to Calgary with a dream of making money on a business of their own.
But within just a few years, the partnership turned twisted and one of them was found dumped near death at a Regina hospital, badly emaciated, bruised, broken and bleeding, his lower lip nearly gone.
On Monday, the other was convicted of aggravated assault and sexual assault. Justice Sheilah Martin ruled Dustin Paxton, 32, had abused and starved his former roommate on a regular basis though she acquitted him on a charge of forcible confinement.
Martin said there was overwhelming evidence that Paxton abused the man, who cannot be named because of a court order. She said the victim could not consent to being a "whipping post."
"He treated the victim as his personal servant or bitch," Martin said in her verdict Monday. "I find there is evidence of wounding, maiming, disfiguring and his life was in danger on two occasions."
She said she believed the victim, who testified that he performed sex acts on Paxton to appease him: "He used sex as a further weapon of assault."
But she said the victim was allowed to go to work every day and had freedom of movement, meaning Paxton could not be convicted of holding the man against his will.
Paxton grew visibly upset and shook his head as the sexual assault verdict was rendered. He will next be back in court on Feb. 17, when a date for sentencing will be determined.
The 28-year-old victim testified that he was starved, humiliated and beaten on an almost daily basis.
He told court he took the abuse because he didn't want to look like "a sissy" and had dreams of making big money in the business he and Paxton started.
"I was in survival mode," the man said in his testimony. "I would do anything not to get beaten.''
He said the attacks would happen over the smallest things, such as leftovers in the fridge.
"I was beat up with a two-by-four that broke every one of my ribs and ruptured my bowel. He probably hit me 25 times. He was hitting me in all different ways. I was standing there and I had to let him hit me...
"I got too many punches in the face. My lips would get cut on my own teeth until there was nothing left of them."
He ended up in hospital in Calgary with a cracked skull and a crushed eye socket. Hospital staff were told a pizza oven had fallen on him.
The pair eventually shut down their Calgary business and started moving from motel to motel until they ended up in Regina.
Neighbours there testified they called 911 after hearing screaming, thumping and loud noises from Paxton's apartment.
The defence argued that the man was not tied up or locked in his room and could have left at any time.
The Crown countered with Kris Mohandie, a U.S.-based human captivity expert who told court the man reacted like an abused pet or battered spouse and simply could not flee the relationship.
But Martin said Mohandie's testimony was only useful in a general way.
"His opinion is not conclusive proof of captivity."
Monday's ruling began with Martin rejecting the defence's request of a stay of proceedings.
Paxton's lawyer had argued that the case against his client should be thrown out because of allegations a police officer had coached a witness.
But Martin said that "almost all of the defence claims are not made out in the facts."
Calgary Deputy Police Chief Trevor Daroux later held a news conference to say he was glad the judge had "found our officers to be professional, skillful and there to support the witnesses and the court processes, nothing more."
Martin also found Paxton guilty of assault on another man, a former employee.
Martin said she believed Abraham Chutta was threatened and whipped with a dog leash.
Chutta was one of the major witnesses supporting allegations that Paxton assaulted the roommate.
Chutta testified that he also lived with the accused and helped him and the victim set up their business. Chutta said Paxton would often fly into a rage over very small things.