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Purse snatcher apologizes to Collingwood woman's family ahead of sentencing

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For years, Caleb Burgler's mother has wondered what happened the day her son encountered 86-year-old Marion Fenwick in Collingwood.

Burgler, an admitted drug addict, was riding a bike when he snatched Fenwick's purse as she walked home with groceries in September 2019, knocking the woman to the ground.

Roughly a week later, Fenwick died of illness after surgery to replace the hip she injured during the robbery.

Marion Fenwick is pictured in this undated photo. (Supplied)

Burgler pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death.

His mother, Lori Houtzager, disputes witness claims that her son knowingly left the senior on the ground, injured, after stealing her purse.

"He was riding his bike, and while driving by, he grabbed her purse, and she fell to the ground," Houtzager said. "He did not intentionally set out to hurt someone, nor did he kill somebody. Her death was accidental."

Police release an image of a man on a bicycle believed to have robbed and critically injured a woman, 86, in Collingwood, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2019. (OPP)

Houtzager said days after the incident, and before her son turned himself in, she told him that a picture of him was circulating and that Fenwick was in the hospital.

"He had a look of shock on his face," she recalled. "He didn't realize at the time she had fallen and was hurt."

In a Barrie courtroom on Wednesday, 33-year-old Burgler fought back the tears as he apologized to Fenwick's family, saying no words can fix the poor choices he made and that he would fix their pain if he could.

"We appreciated him taking the time to do that, and we acknowledge that it wasn't easy for him. I just hope he was sincere," said Fenwick's niece, Jennifer Lougheed.

Burgler's mother believes in his remorse.

The Crown asked the judge for a seven-year sentence, while the defence believes a proper sentence would be between four and a half and five years.

In her victim impact statement, Lougheed said she didn't want to see two lives ruined by this incident.

"That's our ultimate goal - is that he gets the help that he needs," said Lougheed.

In that same statement, she looked at Burgler and said, "You decided our aunt's life was worth $40 and a couple of lottery tickets."

Burgler is scheduled for sentencing on May 30.

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