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Man stabbed to death at Calgary party was kind of son every parent wants: father

CALGARY — The father of a young man stabbed to death at a house party says his boy was the poster child for the kind of son every parent wants.

Bruce Rathwell told mourners at his son Zackariah’s funeral Tuesday that the young man was athletic, artistic, loved music and spent years as a Boy Scout.

A display at the front of the Calgary chapel was a testament to the 21-year-old’s interests and accomplishments. It included three guitars, a Boy Scouts uniform, rugby jersey, hockey equipment and skates. There was also a large photograph and what appeared to be a self portrait

A bronze plaque with Zack’s hand and footprint as a baby was also on view.

“Zack was just so adorable as a young boy. Zack was the poster child that every parent wished for,” said Rathwell, who was wearing a Boy Scouts uniform and a kilt.

“May you all take a piece of Zackariah James Rathwell in your hearts, wherever you go. We all love you Zackariah. Sleep tight my little bear. Pleasant dreams. Don’t forget mummy and daddy love you with all of our hearts.”

Rathwell recalled his son was 10 pounds when he was born, but had a small tear in his lung so had to be put into an incubator.

“So off he goes to the ICU to literally be shoehorned into an incubator that is used for preemies,” he said with a smile.

“I see all these little, little babies in their incubators and all of a sudden, over in the corner, there’s this child stuffed into an incubator.

“The first thing he does as a baby is demonstrate early that ’I’ll do things my way.”’

Rathwell, a promising musician with the band Zackariah and the Prophets, was stabbed to death along with four others last week at a get-together to celebrate the end of classes.

His mother, Ronda-Lee Rathwell, said the past week has been the hardest of her life, although hanging out with Zack’s friends has made it easier. She said they introduced her to a “whole new Zack.”

“I have fallen in love with my son all over again. I thought Zack was a really great kid and on his way to becoming an amazing man. But ... after all the outpouring of love and stories I’ve heard ... I’ve come to realize he was an even better person than I thought he was,” she said, choking back tears.

“I love you forever. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be,” she concluded, quoting from the popular children’s book “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch.

A photo tribute was played as music recorded by Zackariah and the Prophets played in the background.

Another party-goer, 22-year-old Matthew de Grood, is charged with five counts of first-degree murder. He appeared in court Tuesday and was ordered to undergo a 30-day assessment to determine whether he is mentally fit to stand trial.

De Grood, the son of a senior Calgary police officer, was wearing blue coveralls when he appeared in court earlier in the day via closed-circuit television.

He could be seen leaning against a wall and occasionally touching his face, which had cuts and scrapes from when he was taken down by the canine unit during his arrest.

He only spoke once, replying “Yes, sir” when Judge Jim Ogle asked if de Grood could see and hear him.

The accused is to return to court May 22. He will continue to be held at the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre, where he’s been since his arrest.

The Crown requested the assessment on the recommendation of a doctor who has been dealing with de Grood.

“The case has been adjourned for a period of 30 days to allow a psychiatrist to assess whether or not the accused is fit to stand trial,” Crown prosecutor Stephanie Brown told reporters.

“The investigation is still ongoing, so we’re unable to provide any further comment on the case at this time. But the family members of the victims will remain updated and we’ll be meeting with them in the coming days.”

De Grood’s lawyer, Allan Fay, said he’s not ruling out a defence of not criminally responsible.

“I’d be foolish to overlook any possibility, especially in a case that on its face is as bizarre as this,” Fay said outside court.

“We’ve never seen anything like it in Calgary, and one can’t help but look at the case and consider what we know so far and how strange this whole thing is.”

Fay said he’s met with de Grood three or four times and his client is doing as well as one would expect under the circumstances. He said he’s “obviously apprehensive and concerned but he seems to be holding up.”

He acknowledged it’s going to be a tough case for everyone.

“Any homicide is difficult. A homicide this magnified is going to be very difficult ... not only from a logistical point of view, but just the emotional toll it’s going to take on everybody involved,” Fay said.

“It’s a horrendous case and it’s touched so many lives.”

Rathwell, Jordan Segura, Kaiti Perras, Josh Hunter and Lawrence Hong were all at the party April 15 when they were killed.

Three funerals were held Monday for Segura, Perras and Rathwell’s bandmate Hunter. A service for Hong is scheduled for Wednesday.

 
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