Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Man Loses Fingers in Quest for Girlfriend

A Los Angeles man who sneaked into Canada in February to see his Internet girlfriend will be deported -- minus all his fingers and some of his toes, the Winnipeg Sun newspaper reported Tuesday.

Charles Gonsoulin, 41, will have the fingers and toes amputated because of severe frostbite suffered during a 100-hour trek from Pembina, North Dakota, across the border to Emerson, Manitoba, where he was found wandering on a golf course on Feb. 23, suffering from hypothermia.

"It is better to have loved and to have lost than never to have loved at all," the Sun quoted Gonsoulin as saying. "It was all worth it for me. It's the difference between sitting around dreaming about things and going out and getting them."

Gonsoulin and the Canadian woman met in an Internet chat room in 2002. The woman lives in Quebec, Gonsoulin's lawyer, Mike Cook, told a court hearing. Quebec is about 2,500 kilometers (1,600 miles) east of Manitoba.

Gonsoulin could not enter Canada legally because he was convicted of robbing a Pizza Hut in Arkansas in 1984, the newspaper said.

His girlfriend could not afford to travel to Los Angeles, he told the Sun. So he took a bus to North Dakota where he crossed the border.

"Mr. Gonsoulin didn't really know that there was any place on Earth that could be so cold and so inhospitable," Cook told a court hearing Monday, adding his client had never felt temperatures colder than 10 degrees Celsius (50 F).

Temperatures dipped below -26 C (-15 F) during his long hike.

Gonsoulin is receiving medical treatment in a Winnipeg jail. He still has not met his girlfriend face-to-face but they have spoken on the phone and Gonsoulin said they are still in love.

No deportation date has yet been set.


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