CALGARY — Friends and family sobbed and gasped with horror Monday as they heard graphic details about how five young people at a house party were slain by a man who believed he was killing Medusas and werewolves for the son of God.
Matthew de Grood, 24, admitted in an agreed statement of facts read at the start of his first-degree murder trial that he stabbed his victims. But he told police he didn’t take pleasure in it.
“I stabbed people in the house,” the statement quotes de Grood as telling officers. “I just want to say that when I stabbed them, I tried to do it mercifully. I aimed for their heart. They put up a struggle which made it hard, but so you know it wasn’t sadistic or anything,” he said.
“I didn’t enjoy killing at all. I said sorry, but the son of God was controlling me.”
De Grood’s lawyer pleaded not guilty on his client’s behalf.
The stabbings, in what police have called Calgary’s worst mass killing, happened at a party being held to mark the end of the university school year in April 2014.
Killed in the attack were Kaitlin Perras, 23 Lawrence Hong, 27 Josh Hunter, 23 Zackariah Rathwell, 21 and Jordan Segura, 22.
Hunter, Hong and Segura all attended the University of Calgary. Perras studied at Mount Royal University and Rathwell was a student at the Alberta College of Art and Design.
Prosecutor Neil Wiberg, who said he intends to call six witnesses, spent more than an hour reading the agreed statement of facts to the court that contained details from de Grood’s interview with police following the killing.
“What I did may seem atrocious but I was killing Medusas, werewolves,” de Grood said.
A childhood friend who had invited de Grood to the party said de Grood was looking for hidden meanings within certain songs and made a number of odd rambling statements including “Obama was the Antichrist.”
The agreed facts said de Grood handed his friend a clove of garlic stating that “he may need it.” He also passed him a knife similar to a bread knife with a serrated blade. He arrived at the party wearing his Safeway uniform and later put on a pair of blue latex gloves.
De Grood told police that he felt he had to attack Rathwell, a budding young musician, before Rathwell attacked him. Court heard de Grood grabbed a chef’s knife with a 21-centimetre blade from a knife block in the kitchen.
“I don’t feel bad for doing what I had to do because it was justice and I was being controlled,” he said.
The families of the victims made a statement on the courthouse steps in which they urged people to remember their loved ones.
“The priority for us during this trial is to ensure that our loved ones will be given the full and just attention that they deserve,” read Greg Perras, Kaitlin’s father. “All we ask is that you remember how they lived — with purpose, with life, with goodness and love for their friends and family.”
The statement said the last two years have been extremely difficult, incredibly long and anxiety-ridden for the families.
“There’s no such thing as a new normal that some people talk about,” Perras said. “There is only existing, surviving, and a series of bitter-sweet events going forward in our families lives such as graduations, weddings and grandchildren.
“These milestones will be happy and they will be sad.”
The trial is being heard by an out-of-town judge at the request of both the prosecution and defence, because de Grood’s father is a high-ranking city police officer and could be called to testify.
A psychiatric review determined de Grood was fit to stand trial, because he understands the charges against him and is able to communicate with his lawyer.
He has been undergoing treatment at the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre since his arrest.