Matthew de Grood not criminally responsible in Brentwood stabbings
A judge in the Matthew de Grood quintuple murder trial has found the young man not criminally responsible for the stabbing deaths.
Justice Eric Macklin delivered his verdict on Wednesday morning after a careful consideration of all the evidence, including the testimonies of three expert medical professionals who say the young man was psychotic at the time he stabbed five young people.
Matthew de Grood is charged with five counts of first-degree murder, accused of killing Joshua Hunter, Lawrence Hong, Zackariah Rathwell, Kaiti Perras and Jordan Segura in April of 2014.
He pleaded not guilty to the murders on the first day of the trial last week and, in an agreed statement of facts, admitted to killing all five victims.
The Crown and defence contend that de Grood is not criminally responsible, or NCR, for his actions.
Justice Macklin agreed with counsel, saying that the young man was not criminally responsible for his actions.
He also agreed with the testimonies of the doctors, saying that “he did not know his actions were morally wrong”.
Macklin J. said that doctors testified that de Grood stabbed the group to death after he became convinced that they were part of an ‘evil conspiracy’ against him.
He said that de Grood passed the two-prong test for an NCR ruling in that he suffered from a mental disease at the time of the killings and did not understand his actions were morally wrong.
The ruling doesn't mean that de Grood is acquitted of the stabbings, but instead will be put into the care of the medical community.
De Grood's lawyer, Allan Fay, read a statement prepared by his client to the court shortly following the ruling.
In it, he apologized for his actions and said he takes responsibility for his mental illness.
"I deeply regret your loved ones aren't with you anymore. They never deserved to die," he said. "I will work to regain the trust of society."
Macklin J. also addressed the court, saying that the events and the tragic consequences will forever stay in the minds of the families.
"To most, events such as those on Apr 14/15, 2014, are so inexplicable they shake all those impacted and the community to the core," he said.
He said that all the families are continuing to suffer their heartbreaking losses yet have all shown courage in the face of the pain.
Justice Macklin also spoke of how difficult the situation has been on the de Grood family as well.
During the final submissions on Tuesday, the Crown called the 24-year-old a “killing machine”.
Prosecutor Neil Wiberg did concede with the expert evidence from three doctors who saw the accused independently, finding that de Grood didn’t know it was morally wrong to commit the stabbings.
The young man told police at the time that he believed he was acting in self defence against vampires and werewolves.
De Grood was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
He will now be given psychiatric treatment at a secure psychiatric facility and his progress will be monitored and assessed by the Alberta Review Board.
It will be months or possibly years before the board determines that de Grood no longer poses a risk to the community. Once that determination has been made, de Grood would be released.
The families of the victims issued the following statement after the hearing on Wednesday:
Now that the trial for Matthew de Grood has concluded, the families of Jordan Segura, Zackariah Rathwell, Kaiti Perras, Joshua Hunter and Lawrence Hong would like to make a short statement.
First of all, we would like to express our immense gratitude to Justice Macklin for allowing the five tributes to our wonderful loved ones within the court. Our goal at the beginning of the trial was that the spotlight be put on those we lost; that continues to be our goal now and into the future. We ask that everyone remember the names: Zackariah Rathwell, Jordan Segura, Kaiti Perras, Lawrence Hong and Josh Hunter. We can all cherish their legacy by reminiscing moments together, living out their values and supporting others through the scholarships and foundations created in their memory. Those are the individuals who should be remembered. Those are the lives that were lost, and no matter what: Kaiti, Jordan, Josh, Zack and Lawrence are still gone and our families will never be whole again.
The end of this trial is not the end of this journey for us, we continue to be broken. The finding of NCR will be a recurring nightmare for our families. In this system Matthew de Grood will meet with a Mental Health Review Board every year to determine if he will be granted concessions. There will be no peace for us; our wounds never fully heal because every year our families will have to wonder, what will be the fate of the man who damaged so many lives. Every year we will be forced to relive details of our family’s deaths, the anguish and sorrow. We ask that fellow Canadians become informed about the justice system, the designation “Not Criminally Responsible” and its implications. A possible reprieve for our families is the designation of a High Risk NCR, a new law that among other changes would allow a review board to decide to assess an extremely dangerous offender every three years. The five families would support the prosecution in seeking the designation of High Risk NCR, which would give gravitas to the fact Matthew de Grood killed five people and support the system in ensuring that he is not a threat to the public. Every year that Matthew de Grood is reviewed we hope that our community will value the lives of Josh, Zack, Jordan, Kaiti and Lawrence and do what they can to support the five lives that de Grood ended.
A lot of discussion around these murders and trial are painful to think about and at times get away from the core of it. That five lives were taken away and countless others devastated by the actions of one person. Unfortunately, no matter what the outcome is, or could have been, our loved ones Lawrence, Zack, Josh, Jordan and Kaiti are gone – and there is no changing that. Those five young bright people will only smile in our memories, we can only hug them in our dreams, and every moment good or bad will be spent wishing they could share it with us. Their lives, our lives, their friends and the futures for all of us affected are forever changed.
Thank you for your attention.
Gregg Perras, the father of Kaiti Perras, also addressed the media shortly after the statement was read. He called his daughter 'a strong young woman'.
He said that the NCR designation 'is what it is'. "You have to deal with people who are mentally ill. In 1991 or 1992 they came up with this new law. I really don't have much more to add than that."
Perras said that the expert witnesses said de Grood was schizophrenic. "We have to accept that. What we do know is that there is no cure for schizophrenia. There is only controlling the impulses and delusions with medications so that's all I have to say on that."
Perras said that the road is far from over for the families. "These families all have a life sentence now. Our life sentence is to, every year, go to the Mental Health Review Board and make sure this dangerous offender never gets out and has a chance to hurt anyone else. It's not over - this is just the start."
He says that he and all the other families are 100 percent behind the Crown's pursuit of a high risk NCR rating.
"If anyone would fall under that definition, someone who kills five people and falls into psychosis in a matter of weeks, that's likely someone who should fall under that designation," Perras said.
Susan and Doug de Grood, Matthew's parents, also spoke to the media after the decision, saying that they accept the decision of the court.
"We will continue to walk by our son's side as we continue to walk the painful and long road ahead of us," Doug de Grood said. "Today is not the end of this tragic nightmare - we live it everyday.
"We will continue to live it every day for the rest of our lives. Everyone connected to this tragedy can never forget the heartache and sufferings from the families of the victims. As we move forward, we will continue to keep the victims and their families in our prayers and hope that time will eventually begin to heal their suffering. Thank you."
The Crown says it will be considering a motion to declare the young man 'high risk', which would extend the review period to every three years instead of every year.
Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg said that special rules will apply to de Grood if he is given a high risk NCR designation.
"For instance, if the Review Board is considering an absolute discharge or conditional discharge into the community, then that would have to go before a judge."
Wiberg says that there will have to be other types of evidence that will need to be presented before such a designation is imposed.
That evidence would come from the treatment team at the first meeting of the board of review, he said. "There would be a risk assessment and an update of how he is doing right now."
He says that the charges that de Grood was given is the most serious case one can be given and warrants such a designation, especially because there was no substance abuse involved. "This was done without drugs or alcohol so, it's not like someone that you know if they stay off drugs and alcohol, there will be no crimes."
Wiberg said he would be looking at that information when it comes out. "I imagine it will be in August because there is 90 days for the first board of review hearing."
Allan Fay, defence counsel for Matthew de Grood, also commented saying that the process has been difficult for everyone involved.
"I have been dealing with Matthew now since this happened and I'm sad for him. I'm especially sad for the victims and their families. It's a sad thing."
Fay had read a statement from Matthew in court to express his client's sorrow and regret over what happened. "He wanted that to be known."
He said that he could not have asked for more in the decision on Wednesday. "Justice Macklin very accurately summarized the statements of the experts in this matter and reached the conclusion that I thought was the appropriate one."
Matthew de Grood - Reasons for Judgment of the Honourable Mr. Justice Eric F. Macklin