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Alberta man who killed mother found not criminally responsible

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A judge has ruled that a 21-year-old Airdrie, Alta., man who admitted to killing his mother earlier this year is not criminally responsible for her death.

That was the ruling Friday afternoon, when Justice Suzanne Bensler determined that Alexander Thorpe was not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder.

ABNORMAL PSYCHOTIC SYMPTOM

Earlier in the day, a forensic psychiatric expert told court that Thorpe experienced an abnormal psychotic symptom triggered by attending a religious conference in Atlanta.

Dr. Kenneth Hashman found that Thorpe was fit to stand trial in the second-degree murder death of 48-year-old Melanie Lowen whose body was found in her home in Airdrie on Jan. 13.

Hashman is the medical director and lead of forensic in-patient services at the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre.

He recommended a further assessment which questioned his criminal responsibility following a medical diagnosis of bipolar disorder 1 with mood-congruent psychotic features.

“He (Thorpe) was unable to appreciate his actions were legally or morally wrong as he believed it was not his mother he killed, but Satan or something evil that had taken his mother,” said Hashman.

“He had no moral compass, it was kill or be killed, exterminate the threat.”

Hashman adds that it was clear Thorpe had launched into a psychotic episode after attending a religious conference called ‘Passion’ in Atlanta, Georgia.

The event was attended by more than 60,000 people and it’s believed this is what sparked a series of manic emotions.

“He was unsure if he was experiencing psychotic symptoms as he experienced a sweet taste in his mouth, his thoughts were racing, only receiving a few hours of sleep a night as he thought the holy spirit was moving him,” said Hasman.

“When people think about stress this can precipitate the onset of a mental disorder. Sometimes it can be bad stress, but sometimes it can be viewed as good stress. So I viewed this conference as a very stressful event for him, in a week or two before the offence he was launched into an acute disorder of psychotic proportions.”

Thorpe’s defence counsel of David Roper and Balfour Der pursued an argument that their client was not criminally responsible.

'HE WAS UNAWARE OF HIS CHARGES'

In an agreed statement of facts, court heard that Thorpe was living with his mother, Lowen and had admitted to unlawfully causing her death.

Lowen was found dead inside her Airdrie apartment in the her bedroom where RCMP officers observed a large kitchen knife found on top of her, severe cuts to her head and neck. The door to the room taken off its hinges.

Court heard that Thorpe had left the home and headed to the Cam Clark Ford Dealership where he could be seen on surveillance video just before 8 a.m. on Jan. 13, walking naked and barefoot through service bays holding a phone to his ear.

Thorpe had dried blood on his head, hands and feet and a religious sermon could be heard coming from his phone.

During a psychiatric assessment, Hashman said Thorpe went to Cam Clark Ford because he had heard commercials from the dealership while listening to religious sermons.

“There were commercials from Cam Clark Ford and he took that as being the ‘finishing line’ where everybody and his mother would be there to greet him,” said Hashman.

“He was convinced he would find out the world was not real once he arrived there.”

There were several factors included in Thorpe’s assessment including grandiose behaviour, racing thoughts, a lack of sleep, a taste of cinnamon and myrrh in his mouth and hallucinations of doomsday-like proportions.

Hashman noted in court that it is of his opinion that Thorpe should be viewed as not criminally responsible.

“He (Thorpe) spoke in the present tense expecting that his mother would be at home. He was unaware of his charges and quite shocked to hear that his mother had passed away and wanted telephone access as soon as possible so that he could phone her.”

"I think there is ample evidence to support he failed to appreciate the nature and quality of his actions. He doesn't have a clear recollection of what he was doing.”

FORMER VALEDICTORIAN AND HONOUR STUDENT

Court heard that Thorpe is a very intelligent young man who was named valedictorian as a high school graduate who was also an honours student at the University of British Columbia where he was pursuing a bachelor of commerce.

Medical records from a psychiatric analysis indicate he suffered from anxiety and previously had concerns that he might develop a major mental disorder.

Thorpe was never diagnosed with bipolar disorder and never treated with medication for his mental health until he was seen having acute psychiatric episodes after committing his crime.

He was tried by a judge alone.

Thorpe will be remanded in custody of Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre.

With files from The Canadian Press

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