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'Insensitive and disrespectful:' Mass killer's review angers victim's father

Red Deer Advocate - 10/5/2018

CALGARY — The father of one of five young people stabbed to death at a Calgary house party in 2014 says the mental health board overseeing the killer's treatment has been insensitive and disrespectful to the victims' families.

Matthew de Grood was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Zackariah Rathwell, 21; Jordan Segura, 22; Kaitlin Perras, 23; Josh Hunter, 23; and Lawrence Hong, 27. A judge found him not criminally responsible in 2016 because he was suffering from a mental disorder at the time and did not understand his actions were wrong.

The Alberta Review Board decided this week to move de Grood from a secure psychiatric hospital in Calgary to one in Edmonton, where he could be granted unsupervised ground privileges and supervised day passes with staff or a responsible adult.

It said he could eventually be placed in a halfway house with 24-hour supervision.

Gregg Perras, Kaitlin's father, said the only part of the board's decision he agreed with was to move de Grood to Edmonton, where more treatment options are available.

He said victims are "unimportant and forgotten" in a process that is meant to balance public safety with the interests of someone deemed not criminally responsible.

"The Alberta Review Board, who is supposed to be impartial, unbiased and inquisitorial, was insensitive and disrespectful to the victims at the most recent hearing," Perras said in an email Thursday.

Psychiatrist Sergio Santana, who heads de Grood's treatment team, testified at the hearing last month that his patient is fully participating in his treatment and is trying to do the right thing.

That prompted jeers from family members of the victims and a sharp rebuke from the board chair.

"The lack of respect continued into the body of the disposition where the board implies that the victims are not informed reasonable people and do not represent the views of the public," Perras wrote.

"The board also wrote that the concerns, fears and anger of the victims are not significant to the outcome for de Grood. The logical conclusion from this is that the victim impact statements do not matter and therefore the victims do not matter."

The review board noted in its decision that the victims' families have strong views about what should happen to de Grood and agreed with the Crown's submission at the hearing that the anger and fear were palpable. Victims' loved ones have said de Grood should be institutionalized indefinitely and deemed high-risk.

"While the victims are members of the public, they do not constitute the body politic of the public," the board wrote. "It is the safety of the public at large that is to be considered, and that body should be presumed to consist of rational and reasonable individuals who being fully informed will act reasonably."

One of the reasons for moving de Grood to Edmonton, the board wrote, is because it's a "more benign or less toxic community environment."

It described how a Calgary dental clinic cancelled a scheduled appointment with de Grood so as not to draw undue attention.

"Of note to the board is that the 'fear' was not of harm from de Grood or of his doing anything untoward. Rather the fear was externalized to what the general community might think or do if it became known that de Grood had received treatment at the clinic."

The board's report said de Grood's schizophrenia and major depressive disorder are in full remission.

"It is the opinion of the board that de Grood remains a significant threat to the public were he to relapse into a full psychotic state," it said.

"In the opinion of the board, transferring de Grood to (Edmonton) to continue his treatment is the best way of protecting the safety of the public while imposing the least onerous order upon him."

The United Conservatives oppose the move and want Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley to review the board's decision.

"The high-risk not criminally responsible designation is precisely for cases like Matthew de Grood," the UCP said in a release. "Public safety is at risk."

 
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