|Special to The Province|
NELSON -- A woman with burns to more than a third of her body is standing by the man who set her on fire.
Tammy Desjardins, 30, with burn bandages visible on her right arm, sat in court yesterday smiling encouragingly at Steven Ricketts, 33, as he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.
"She appears to be in substantial support of him at this time," said prosecutor Anne Scharbach.
Tammy's father Maurice Desjardins said in an interview from his home in Grand Forks that he can't believe his daughter is standing by Ricketts.
"I don't know what she is thinking and I sure don't want him near my grandchildren," he said.
"The guy is definitely sick and I hope he goes away for a long time."
Tammy's kids, Vanessa, 5, and Sebastien, 3, who live with their mother in Castlegar, watched as Ricketts set her on fire with gasoline during a camping trip at Fletcher Falls forestry campground on Kootenay Lake on Aug. 9.
"The kids told us, 'He poured the gas on my mum,'" Desjardins said earlier.
In court, Ricketts brushed away tears and at times looked at the floor, crying.
His lawyer, Ken Wyllie, took issue with some of the details of Tammy Desjardins' statement to police and wanted her to testify.
But Ricketts would not let it happen.
He stood up in the prisoner's box and said: "That's part of the reason why I pleaded guilty. I've been through enough already."
Court was told the couple met in May 2003 and had a "tumultuous" relationship.
A few weeks before the attack, RCMP were called to a dispute at their rented home but no charges were laid.
A witness at the forestry campground, who was camped near the couple, said they argued constantly.
Tammy said in her statement to police that after a bitter exchange, Ricketts told her: "Maybe I should light you on fire . . . Yeah that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to light you on fire."
Within moments, she said, Ricketts had doused her with gas and set her on fire.
"I don't know how he did it so fast," she said. "The next thing I knew, I was on fire . . . I just remember hearing my skin burning."
Desjardins dropped and rolled on the ground, but it didn't put the flames out.
She said Ricketts then realized the seriousness of what he done and tried to hurry her down to the lake. It was almost too late.
Desjardins was so badly burnt she went into shock and couldn't sit down during the
agonizing ride to hospital in Kaslo. She spent the next week and a half in and out of consciousness with burns to 35 per cent of her body. She has had so many skin grafts she can't remember them all and will be scarred for
She was wearing a bathing suit at the time and suffered third-degree burns to her lower back and second-degree burns to her upper back, an arm and her throat.
Provincial Court Judge Ronald Fabbro ordered a pre-sentence and a psychiatric report. Ricketts, who is in custody, is to be sentenced Jan. 11. He faces up to 14 years in prison.
A fund set up to help Tammy, a hairstylist, raised more than $6,000.
She would not talk about her ordeal yesterday but thanked people who donated to the fund.