DISTURBING CONTENT: This story contains descriptions of graphic violence. Discretion is strongly advised.
Two expert forensic psychiatrists testified Wednesday in the trial of Matthew de Grood. One said he was “clearly psychotic” when he stabbed and killed five people in Calgary’s worst mass murder; the second agreed and diagnosed him with schizophrenia.
Day 3 of the trial started with the Crown closing its case, and the defence calling Dr. Alberto Choy, an expert witness specializing in forensic psychiatry. Choy conducted a two-hour interview with de Grood in September 2014. In the trial, he was called to give his opinion on if de Grood should be found not criminally responsible (NCR).
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NCR applies to those who are found to have committed an act that constitutes an offence, but cannot appreciate or understand what they did was wrong due to a mental disorder at the time.
Court heard de Grood was initially sent to the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre and put on anti-psychotic medication following his arrest. He was then sent to hospital in Edmonton for assessment.
Choy testified there was evidence de Grood was paranoid leading up to the attack, and was suffering from a psychosis when he stabbed and killed five people, adding he was “clearly psychotic at the time of the killings.”
“I wasn’t able to come up with a specific diagnosis for Mr. de Grood,” Choy said, except that he suffered from a mental disorder.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Remembering the Brentwood 5
Dr. Lenka Zedkova, the second forensic psychiatrist to testify Wednesday, spent about 14 hours with de Grood, interviewed his parents and reviewed his medical records and history. She concluded he suffered from schizophrenia.
“De Grood said the voice of the sun god told him, ‘kill them all before they kill you’ and to him it marked the beginning of the war,” she said. “My opinion is that he did not know what he was doing was morally wrong.”
“He intended to kill these individuals…because he believed his life was in danger and they were about to kill him.”
In his testimony, Choy also suggested de Grood understood he was stabbing and killing the victims, but not that it was morally wrong.
Zackariah Rathwell, 21, Jordan Segura, 22, Josh Hunter, 23, Kaitlin Perras, 23, and Lawrence Hong, 27, were stabbed to death at a house party in Brentwood on April 15, 2014.
Choy said de Grood told him he felt threatened by conversations with Rathwell, and that he believed all of the victims were part of the “other side” against him.
“Mr. de Grood recounted that on 14 April 2014 he went to work as usual but had known that the world was going to end that day,” reads a document submitted by Choy. “He purchased garlic to protect himself because the vampires and werewolves were on the side of evil…
“As he spoke to Zackariah he began to believe that Zackariah was a werewolf as they discussed the end of the world. He indicated that he felt Zackariah was arguing with him but he felt immediately threatened when he said ‘maybe you’ll die before me’ to Mr. de Grood. It was at this point that Mr. de Dgrood decided to go to the kitchen to grab the knife to arm himself before Zackariah could attack him.”
Watch below: Global’s ongoing coverage of the trial of Matthew de Grood
Choy’s report said de Grood told him his beliefs about werewolves came from the movie, Twilight, and his beliefs about vampires came from the graphic novel, Cirque du Freak.
De Grood told Choy he’d heard a male voice, “who he thought was the devil, telling him to ‘kill them before they get you.’”
Read Choy’s report below. Note that witness names have been removed.
On the stand, the defence asked Choy and Zedkova about the possibility de Grood was “faking” a mental illness. Choy said it’s not uncommon for people to exaggerate in such cases, but said steps were taken to check if de Grood had been faking.
“I was aware he was well-educated,” Choy said. “He seemed quite eager to tell me about voices.”
Zedkova said she found it “highly unlikely” he was faking symptoms, adding it would have been hard to fake them so consistently and convincingly for so long.
Choy’s investigation concluded de Grood legitimately suffered from a mental disorder. The defence asked if someone should have seen or done something leading up to the killings.
When the Crown cross-examined Choy, he said he formed an independent opinion on de Grood’s mental state and that he was not retained by the defence or the Crown.
When asked if fleeing from police and resisting arrest is consistent with an NCR case, Choy said the accused felt police were part of the conspiracy. Choy admitted there were some inconsistencies in de Grood’s stories that he couldn’t account for, but reiterated he didn’t believe he was faking.
“He was very severely ill,” Choy said, referring to when de Grood was isolated in hospital after the killings.
Outside court, defence lawyer Allan Fay said Choy was hired by the province to give an unbiased opinion.
“This isn’t some story we’ve made up,” Fay said. “This isn’t some hired gun that I’ve paid a lot of money to come in to give this kind of testimony to give my client an easy out.”
“No matter what we do, there’s going to be certain members of the public who aren’t satisfied, but it’s important to know my client isn’t getting any special breaks because his father is a police officer. My client isn’t trying to avail himself of some trumped-up defence. My client was mentally ill when this occurred to the point that he was incapable of appreciating the moral wrongness of what he was doing.”
Fay said he was sent to hospital in Edmonton to avoid any perception he was getting special treatment in Calgary because his father is a police officer in the city. He said de Grood has been medicated to the point he’s no longer delusional.
De Grood pleaded not guilty to five counts of first-degree murder Monday. An agreed statement of facts was entered Monday, in which 24-year-old de Grood admitted to stabbing each of the five victims with a kitchen knife. A publication ban was also lifted on a police document containing a detailed account of the time before, during, and after the killings.
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