Matthew Villeneuve didn’t stand a chance.
His life, from the day he was born, was doomed through no fault of his own. He was a throwaway kid that you don’t hear about, and certainly don’t see at the high school prom.
He grew up in the worst margins of society.
His parents couldn’t, or didn’t, want to raise him. He had special needs and his parents of him made the shores of his childhood worse with physical, emotional abuse and neglect.
They ultimately abandoned him. He was eight when he made his first group home and no elementary school would take him because they said the little boy was too hard to handle.
He later lived with his grandparents only to be subjected to excessive physical discipline so severe that he ran away on Dec. 1, 2014. He was “apprehended” by child-welfare authorities who put him back in a group home with other vulnerable children.
They made him a ward of the state at 10.
Since then his life, for the last 17 years, has been anything but good. Group homes, youth jail, provincial jail and then prison.
His trail of crime — anchored in rejection and abandonment — escalated to attempted murder in the girls’ washroom at an Ottawa high school in 2018. He wasn’t a student at the school but got inside just the same only to attack a woman at knifepoint . She managed to fight him off and ran back to her classroom and reported it.
The attempted murder is his latest conviction on a grocery-list long criminal record.
Just 27, Villeneuve has now been branded a dangerous offender and will make home in prison for an indeterminate time that will be reviewed by the parole board in seven years and every two years after that.
Now, after a life in state care and later jail, Matthew has been considered too dangerous to be in the outside world. It’s a world he barely knows.
“It is little wonder that Matthew has struggled throughout his life to deal with the physical and emotional harm and the feelings of rejection engendered by his early childhood experiences,” Ontario Superior Court Justice Catherine Aitken said when declaring Villeneuve a dangerous offender.
It’s not every day you hear about someone so young being branded as a dangerous offender, but his childhood was far from ordinary. It was a prescription for ruin.
Before branding him as one of the country’s most dangerous offenders, the judge reviewed Ottawa police interviews, a psychiatrist’s report and his group home, jail and hospital records.
This story is drawn from the same public records.
Matthew had a food obsession and anxiety about not having enough of it. He was also so fixed on money that he took to stealing.
The child-welfare workers said he was an aggressive, manipulative boy who sought attention. (Much like other children in the system.)
After an assessment at CHEO, doctors recognized that Matthew’s obsession with money and food likely stemmed from his fear of abandonment and not having basic needs met as a child. His low IQ likely fueled his fears of him, the judge said.
His file is thousands of pages and absent of good.
He’s threatened to kill foster moms. The schools couldn’t handle him and it took a while for people to understand his limited understanding of the outside world. Because of his “verbal fluidity” of him, Matthew often appeared to understand or appreciate more than he actually did, the judge noted.
He’s always had a problem with anyone in authority. It was verbal and physical — against staff at group homes, schools, strangers, lifeguards, bus drivers and store owners.
He took to self-harming and sabotaged opportunities, so he had limited exposure to the outside world, except for soccer and cadets.
He stole money and cars and escalated to assault.
Some of his placements at foster homes lasted only days after he threatened to harm himself.
The mentally-ill man has been chased by police in a stolen car more than eleven — including a high-speed pursuit.
He got his first apartment when he turned 18, thanks to funding from child-welfare authorities. But it didn’t work out because he couldn’t manage his finances or get along with other tenants, and the landlord wanted him out. Then he lived with another vulnerable person in a co-op setting, but he got evicted for not following the rules.
He stole more cars and ended up back in prison.
A year later, on May 24, 2016, after Matthew had been in prison for more than a year, child-welfare authorities sent him a letter saying they were cutting him adrift and discontinued all services and funding as he turned 21.
The same system that made him a ward of the state at 10 was no longer helping out the young, troubled man.
Matthew’s crimes continued even while in prison. He was convicted for 2017 crimes of invitation to sexual touching on a phone call with a 14-year-old girl, and uttering threats to the teen’s boyfriend.
Even when Matthew got paroled, he found it impossible to find a halfway house that would take him.
Turned out he’d never make a halfway house because the day he was released from prison, he was arrested for the crimes he committed behind bars, on the phone.
Matthew’s file weighs like heavy luggage. Thousands of pages absent of hope, steeped in dirty deeds against a backdrop of child abuse and abandonment.
Four assaults, two uttering threats, one possession of a weapon, one invitation to sexual touching, seven break and enters with intent to commit an indictable offense or with committing the indictable offense of theft, five thefts under $5,000 or possession of property obtained by crime under $5,000, seven possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000 (motor vehicles) or theft of a motor vehicle, three dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, two flights while pursued by a peace officer, five driving while disqualified, and fifteen failure to comply with a court order, undertaking, or recognizance, and finally attempted murder in the girls’ washroom at an Ottawa high school.
After his arrest for the knifepoint attack in the girls’ washroom, he told police:
“It didn’t go the way I wanted to. I was gonna kill her. Straight up, I was going to kill her. why? Because in my head yesterday, I was high on f-cking speed. ”
His high-speed police chase came after he stole a group home worker’s car. The police found him in a Walmart parking lot later that day, Aug. 27, 2011. When the police officers tried to speak to him, he sped off. He went through a bunch of stop signs and a red light at speeds just over 150 km/h in an 80.
The pursuit lasted around seven minutes for 14 kilometers and ended with Matthew crashing and running away only to be captured.
He assaulted and stole from people who were trying to help him, and medical assessments reveal that his crimes are directly linked to his abandonment as a child.
Matthew is now 27 and will be in prison longer than some killers. The judge ruled that he’s a dangerous offender who should be jailed for fear of future violent crimes.