Mentally ill man who stabbed five people at Calgary party appeals denial of freedoms

Mentally ill man who stabbed five people at Calgary party appeals denial of freedoms

CALGARY — Lawyers for a mentally ill man who fatally stabbed five young people at a house party are appealing a decision to deny him some privileges.

A provincial mental health review board said last month that Matthew de Grood is making progress as a patient at Alberta Hospital Edmonton, but will not be allowed to go into a group home in the next year.

The board also rejected recommendations to allow de Grood travel of up to one week within Alberta and unsupervised passes in Edmonton.

Lawyer Allan Fay said the Alberta Review Board unreasonably clawed back privileges that had previously been granted and misinterpreted evidence presented at last month’s hearing into his client’s treatment for schizophrenia.

“My client has a mental illness. He’ll always have a mental illness, but it’s clear that when he is properly treated and taking his medications that he poses no danger,” Fay said Friday.

De Grood was found not criminally responsible for the killings in April 2014 of Zackariah Rathwell, Jordan Segura, Kaitlin Perras, Josh Hunter and Lawrence Hong in Calgary. It was ruled that he was suffering delusions at the time and did not understand his actions were wrong.

A trial heard that the university student arrived at the party, which was being held to mark the end of the school year. believing the devil was talking to him and a war was about to begin, signalling the end of the world.

“In my opinion the review board seemed to fixate on the fact that he might stop taking his medication — even though there’s been absolutely nothing to suggest that he would do that — and that he would rapidly become mentally ill again,” said Fay.

Fay said de Grood, who is now 29, has been a model patient and done nothing but show improvement since his 2016 trial.

“It disturbs me that anyone feels perhaps that he would, if released in the community, immediately go out and do something horrible,” he said.

“I think those sorts of feelings or beliefs display a complete ignorance of mental health, science and the criminal law.”

Board chair Gerald Waranik wrote in last month’s decision that de Grood still poses a “significant threat to the safety of the public.”

“The reports indicate that even if Mr. de Grood does take his medication as prescribed, he may suffer mild to moderate relapses because schizophrenia is a naturally relapsing illness,” he wrote.

“The reports also indicate that once Mr. de Grood develops a sufficient intensity of psychotic symptoms, it is harder to predict at what stage of the relapse he would likely commit violence.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 2, 2020.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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