CALGARY — Several people wept softly and dabbed away tears in court Monday as the preliminary hearing began for a man accused in Calgary’s worst mass murder.
It was standing room only in the courtroom, which was jammed with friends and family members of five young people who were stabbed to death at a house party near the University of Calgary to mark the end of the school year on April 14, 2014.
Matthew de Grood, 23, is charged with five counts of first-degree murder. With his hair cut short and wearing a black suit with a blue shirt, he sat quietly during the proceedings, occasionally sipping from a glass of water and carefully avoiding making eye contact with those in the courtroom.
His father, Douglas de Grood, who is a Calgary police inspector, and his mother, Susan, were also in the court.
The hearing is to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to a full trial. A publication ban prohibits releasing any of the testimony heard during the court proceeding.
De Grood is charged in the deaths of Lawrence Hong, 27; Josh Hunter, 23; Kaitlin Perras, 23; Zackariah Rathwell, 21; and Jordan Segura, 22.
“It was emotional for everybody in the courtroom today,” said Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg.
“They’re very upset obviously. Five outstanding young people were murdered and I’m sure this brings back horrible memories.”
The Crown plans to call 13 witnesses this week.
A psychiatric review has already determined that de Grood is fit to stand trial because he understands the charges against him and is able to communicate with his lawyer, but the Crown requested a mental assessment to determine if he could be found criminally responsible if convicted.
Lawyer Allan Fay said his client has been receiving treatment since his arrest and is anxious to get through the court process.
“Obviously, he’s very anxious about this. Reliving the event is very difficult for him,” said Fay.
“He wants to, like anyone in this situation, wants to move forward and try and bring this matter to a close. Obviously a lot of family and friends for the victims and my client are going to be reliving some very, very traumatic events.”
Police have not said what they think motivated the attack, but say de Grood was invited to the party and mingled with guests before violence broke out.