NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — Anger, not a mental disorder, was part of the intent behind a man’s actions when he stabbed a student to death with a hunting knife inside a British Columbia high school, a Crown attorney said during closing arguments Monday.
Rob Macgowan said evidence presented at trial established beyond a reasonable doubt that Gabriel Klein stabbed Letisha Reimer 14 times with such force that he had to have known she would likely die.
The B.C. Supreme Court trial heard Klein, who was then 21, walked into Abbotsford Secondary School on Nov. 1, 2016, and stabbed Reimer’s friend before turning on her as the girls sat on chairs in the rotunda.
He has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of the 13-year-old girl and aggravated assault in the wounding of her friend whose name is protected by a publication ban.
The trial earlier heard that Klein’s defence would be that he is not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder but Macgowan said that is no longer the case.
Both the Crown and the defence have agreed the only verdicts are either that Klein is guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter, he told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes.
Klein had been held at a forensic psychiatric hospital since the attack, but he was deemed mentally fit to stand trial. Holmes allowed him to stay there instead of being transferred to a pre-trial centre so he could continue being treated for schizophrenia, auditory hallucinations and paranoid delusions.
“The evidence before you established that Mr. Klein, at the time of the stabbings, was angry, that he was desperate and hopeless and that he was capable of and in fact was contemplating drastic violent action in the hours before the stabbings,” MacGowan told Holmes, who is hearing the case without a jury.
On the whole of the evidence, the brutality of the killings and Klein’s behaviour before and after the attack, it can’t be assumed that his actions were “the product of a disordered mind,” MacGowan said.
“An unreasonable or irrational intent is nonetheless an intent,” he said.
He said a partial defence of intoxication “lacks an air of reality” and that alcohol Klein may have consumed before the attack was not enough for him to be unaware of the natural consequences of his actions.
The program co-ordinator of the Lookout Shelter where Klein stayed before the stabbings testified in October that he demanded she call his mother in Alberta and he became angry when his mother wanted contact with him only by email.
Andrea Desjarlais said Klein also demanded the shelter immediately get him a bus ticket to Edmonton but when she again explained that would not be possible right away, he banged on lockers where clients store their belongings and she heard what she thought was him kicking the bathroom door from the inside.
After the stabbings, Klein told a psychiatrist who assessed him in an emergency room that she should record their conversation because his lawyer would mount a defence that he was not responsible because of a mental disorder, MacGowan said.
Klein also told the psychiatrist that he hid the knife under his sweater before approaching Reimer and the other girl, who he initially thought were monsters but then realized they were girls but continued the attack, MacGowan said.
The unnamed girl who was stabbed told the court in a video statement played in October that she was writing out Christian music lyrics while Reimer took photos to post on social media when they saw someone “mean” approaching them.
She said she ran into a classroom and only remembers Reimer screaming, not the pain from her stab wounds to the right side of her chest, left shoulder, right middle finger and eye.
The court was shown a video taken by a student from the third floor overlooking the rotunda, where a man was seen repeatedly stabbing a screaming girl on the floor, then the attacker walked backwards away from her and the knife fell to the floor.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 16, 2019.
Camille Bains, The Canadian Press