Police arrested and interviewed 66-year-old John Heintzelman, who had been running a massage studio out of his Victoria home, after a women filed a police report claiming she had been sexually assaulted by Heintzelman during a massage appointment. (Pixabay photo)

B.C. massage therapist acquitted of sexual assault

Judge unable to decide whom to believe, was ‘obliged to acquit Heintzelman’

A Victoria massage therapist has been acquitted of two counts of sexual assault after the judge was unable to decide whom to believe, the alleged victims, or the alleged attacker.

Police arrested and interviewed 66-year-old John Heintzelman on July 9, 2017, after a woman filed a police report claiming she had been sexually assaulted by Heintzelman during a massage appointment at his unlicensed Victoria home studio.

The Victoria Police Department published a post on Facebook on Oct. 20, 2017, with details about the case to seek additional victims.

RELATED: Rogue masseur arrested for sexual assault in Victoria

After seeing the police notice on Facebook on the day that it was posted, a second woman contacted the police with a complaint of sexual assault against Heintzelman that allegedly occurred in 2013.

“I suppressed it right away. I was worried that I would not be believed because of my mental health issues,” the woman said in a statement to police on Nov. 2, 2017, answering the question to why she hadn’t reported the incident sooner.

Heintzelman denied that he touched either complainant in a sexual way.

In court, each of the witnesses “presented as eminently credible,” with Crown counsel submitting that, by reason of the similarity of their accounts, the evidence of each complainant is corroborative of the other.

However, provincial court Judge Ted Gouge ruled that the Facebook post the Victoria police had published to seek additional witnesses, tainted the ability to test the veracity of the second complaint that came forward. The post had included Heintzelman’s name and the address where the assault took place, things the police could have used in questioning to corroborate the accounts.

ALSO READ: More people come forward in Victoria sexual assault investigation

The judge also warned police that the publication of a notice containing the name of the suspect could prejudice the right of the accused to a fair trial, particularly where the accused elects trial by jury and may also unfairly damage the reputation and livelihood of the suspect if the allegation is unfounded.

After a careful consideration of all of the evidence, Judge Gouge ruled on Dec. 20 that he found himself in a position where he was unable to decide whom to believe, so was “obliged to acquit Mr. Heintzelman.”


 

keri.coles@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon paddleboarders raise more than $40K for People Place

Third annual Stand Up For charity paddleboard event exceeds $25,000 goal

Square footage may be revisited for Vernon cultural centre

Greater Vernon Cultural Centre could see size shrink up to 20 per cent as cost-savings measure

Brain safety top of mind for Lake Country kids

Bylaw officers noticing a number of youth out riding bikes, scooters, skateboards without helmets

UPDATE: House fire spreads to bush off Westside

Small blaze burning near Vernon in Six Mile area

Wildfire sparked at Stuart Creek near Westside Road

An air tanker has been requested, according to BC Wildfire

Canucks ride momentum into NHL playoff series against defending Stanley Cup champs

PREVIEW: Vancouver opens against St. Louis on Wednesday

COVID-19 outbreak at South Okanagan farm declared over

There continues to be other community exposure events in the Interior Health region

Man, 54, charged in connection with fatal attack of Red Deer doctor

Doctor was killed in his walk-in clinic on Monday

One dead as fish boat sinks off southern Vancouver Island

Shawnigan Lake-registered Arctic Fox II went down off Cape Flattery, west of Victoria

Landlord takes front door, windows after single B.C. mom late with rent

Maple Ridge mom gets help from community generosity and government

VIDEO: Revelstoke rallies to save snared eagle

Local climber scales tree to save the raptor

42 more people test positive for COVID-19 in B.C.

The province has recorded no new deaths in recent days

Joe Biden selects California Sen. Kamala Harris as running mate

Harris and Biden plan to deliver remarks Wednesday in Wilmington

Most Read