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A peripatetic life ended by an evil killer

Oct 07 2012

NANAIMO — Barbara Robinson has a photo of herself with her nephew Kenneth when he was two, in the mid-1960s. Ironically, it was taken on the day she inadvertently sent her nephew to hospital by giving him a peanut.
As an adult, Kenneth Robinson became a bit of a roamer. He and Barbara both ended up living in Nanaimo, so he used his aunt’s residence as his mailing address. He would show up every so often to raid the fridge and hang out, or crash on the sofa for an hour or so.
It was Barbara who first reported Kenneth missing.
His visits were unpredictable but regular, and when they stopped — and she noticed he hadn’t accessed the disability benefits in his bank account — she immediately knew there was a problem.
The police called to report that he hadn’t shown up in court to face a petty shoplifting charge.
“I said, ‘Well, if you don’t have him, he’s dead,’ ” said Barbara.
That was in May of 2007, and it took several months before Barbara found answers about what had happened to her nephew. It would be five more years before the horrific details of Kenneth’s disappearance were fully revealed.
Aug. 9, 2007, a body was found by hikers outside Shawnigan Lake. “We just knew it was Ken,” said Barbara, based on the description of the body’s clothing, height and hair.
On Sept. 14, Darcy William Kozak of Campbell River, was sentenced to 23 years in prison with no possibility for parole for the second-degree murders of both Robinson, 45, who was disabled and living on the street, and Kenneth Leask, a tree-faller from Powell River.
In his sentencing, Supreme Court Justice James Williams called Kozak’s actions sadistic and  incomprehensibly evil.
In May 2011, Kozak lured Robinson — known on the street as Hippie — from Nanaimo. Kozak confined him in his trailer and tortured him for two days, beating and burning him and breaking his leg. He then tossed him, mutilated but still alive, down a bank at Kapoor Hill, 17 kilometres from Shawnigan Lake.
 It was there that hikers found him.
Of those who remember Kenneth, all mention the dog Angel that was his constant companion.
“It was just a beautiful dog,” said Linda Allen, owner of Mon Petit Choux Café and a bookkeeping client of Barbara. “I think that’s where he made a lot of his money, because he kept the dog so well. I remember giving him $20 on Christmas Eve, for the dog, you know?”
In the final weeks of his life, Allen said, Robinson was “hanging around a lot” at the café. They had given him money and food, and were trying to set up a job for him at the establishment.
She said she empathized with Robinson, who was in chronic pain from spinal complications from a car accident when he was 18. “He had lived with this for a long time, and that’s how his drug addiction started, because of painkillers.”
Barbara said after the accident, Kenneth was in a coma for five days. His mother often commented that he was never quite the same.
He had been an intelligent child — when he was in Grade 8, Barbara said, a test found his IQ was 198. After the accident, however, she noticed a change in his sense of logic. Though he was always well-informed about current events, he became obsessed with conspiracy theories.
Kenneth was also bipolar, a diagnosis Barbara only heard about during the sentencing hearing. It all combined to make it difficult for Kenneth to live a regular, 9-to-5 existence. The longest he ever lived in one place was when he had a little house in Harewood for five or six years, before getting evicted.
Kenneth’s father died of cancer in 1998, something Barbara said was immensely painful. “He always said ‘There’s nothing wrong with Ken — you just don’t understand,’ ” said Barbara. “It was just unconditional love.”
She said her brother came from a generation where mental-health problems weren’t discussed. It was around that time that Kenneth’s chronic pain came back, and he began turning to heavier drugs.
“One of the last things he said to me was how much he missed talking with his father,” said Barbara, wiping away a tear.
Gary Barnier was a close friend of Robinson. The two and others would gather in the parking lot beside the Nanaimo museum to smoke marijuana and hang out in the 1990s. Robinson was taken by the aesthetic of the “goth” scene, wearing black clothes and capes and cultivating an obsessive interest in the occult. From the time the first sets of tarot cards began to show up in stores, Robinson was an early adopter. He began to read people’s fortunes on the street for money.
It was Robinson’s tarot-card hobby that would lead his path to cross Kozak’s. He read Kozak’s tarot cards sometime in 2007, for which he was paid in jewelry and a gold ring. After this initial meeting, Kozak invited Robinson to come to Shawnigan Lake to a party.
After the party, Kozak left Robinson in his trailer and took off with his girlfriend. At some point, Robinson also left, in a truck that belonged to Kozak.
The court heard Kozak’s anger over the theft of his truck may have been what drove him to search for Robinson with the intent of harming him.
Barnier, who still lives on the street, said he thinks that the way Robinson went was “all wrong.”
“He was mentally ill. That’s why he was on the street, that’s why he didn’t function with people, that’s why he had to hide in his character. Same reasons I do,” said Barnier.
Asked if he thought Robinson knew what he was doing as a tarot reader, Barnier laughed and shook his head.
“No, but he tried. He was really good at convincing people that he did,” he said.
“He never gave anyone any bad news. He just had this way of talking, this way of convincing you that all these good things would happen.”
— With a file from the Times Colonist

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