NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — A judge who found a man guilty of second-degree murder and aggravated assault in an attack on two B.C. high school students says there is no evidence that Gabriel Klein’s mental health affected his ability to foresee the consequences of his actions.
Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes of the B.C. Supreme Court said Klein had no reason to harm the two girls at Abbotsford Secondary School on Nov. 1, 2016, and that his conduct was “incomprehensible.”
“His mental state at the time of the attack can have extremely little weight,” she said in delivering her verdict on Friday.
Defence lawyer Martin Peters had argued in December that Klein, who was 21 at the time of the attack, did not have the intent to kill 13-year-old Letisha Reimer when he walked into the school’s rotunda.
He urged Holmes to find his client guilty of manslaughter.
Peters argued there was reasonable doubt related to the murder charge because his client exhibited odd behaviour and mental distress beforehand, suggesting he did not intentionally plan to kill anyone.
He said in his closing arguments the Crown proved its case in the assault against the girl whose name is under a publication ban, and Klein should be found guilty on that charge.
Reimer died after being stabbed 14 times and her friend, who was also stabbed, suffered serious injuries.
Surveillance videos played during the trial showed Klein stealing alcohol from a liquor store and a hunting knife from a sporting goods store hours before the attack. Peters said his client committed the thefts because he wanted to get drunk and use the weapon to stab a police officer in hopes of triggering a suicide-by-cop scenario.
Holmes said Klein ”adroitly stole bottles of rum from the liquor stole” and the knife, asking store clerks where the items were located and going directly to them. When he walked into the rotunda, he had the knife out of the packaging and under his clothing, the judge said.
She said Klein quickly moved to attack Reimer after her friend escaped.
There is “abundant” evidence showing Klein acted with “purpose and foresight” in the lead up to the attack, Holmes said.
He was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a forensic psychiatric hospital in June 2017 and has been receiving treatment but was deemed mentally fit to stand trial.
Klein’s diagnosis of schizophrenia is “unchallenged,” said Holmes.
Sentencing has been scheduled for two days, starting June 1, when victim impact statements will be heard by the court. The sentence for second-degree murder is life in prison with the earliest chance of parole set at 10 years.
Crown attorney Rob Macgowan said in his closing argument that Klein faked symptoms of a mental disorder after his arrest in order to be found not criminally responsible of the crimes and even told a psychiatrist who assessed him at a hospital that his lawyer would use that as a defence.
Holmes said there was no evidence that the strange behaviour and sounds exhibited by Klein in the hours before the attack indicated a mental condition, but that doesn’t mean they were “deliberately feigned.”
Dave Teixeira, a spokesman for Reimer’s family, said the family was relieved by the verdict.
“This is just one more step in the journey,” he said outside court.
He read a statement from Ellie Reimer about the loss of her daughter, which said: “The people who are serving the sentence are those of us who no longer have Letisha in our lives.”
Peters said his client will “have a life sentence, no matter what,” but Holmes will look at a Gladue report to address the number of years Klein has to serve before he is eligible for parole. The report reviews the circumstances of Klein’s upbringing and Metis heritage, Peters said.
Klein was born in Winnipeg and had a “troubled upbringing” with his parents separating when he was a young teenager, he said, adding that his client moved to Alberta and grew up in Red Deer and Edmonton.
Klein will be sent to the regional assessment centre when he is sentenced and his mental health will be evaluated, Peters said.
“I’m hoping that he obtains a disposition which keeps him in a psychiatric facility,” he said.
“He is schizophrenic. A mental health facility will be a far better setting for him.”
He said Klein is remorseful.
“It’s an extraordinary thing to kill someone and to have to live with that,” Peters said.
“And he does live with it every day.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2020.
Hina Alam, The Canadian Press