DISTURBING CONTENT: This story contains descriptions of graphic violence. Discretion is strongly advised.
Matthew de Grood has been found not criminally responsible (NCR) in the stabbing deaths of five young people, after a judge ruled he had “lost touch with reality” at a 2014 house party in Calgary’s Brentwood neighbourhood.
“I take responsibility for these deaths…the victims never deserved to die,” defence lawyer Allan Fay said, reading a letter written by de Grood after the verdict came down.
“I am truly and deeply sorry for what I’ve done.”
Scroll down to read our live blog recap from reporters Nancy Hixt and Reid Fiest
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.
WATCH: Matthew de Grood found not criminally responsible in Calgary mass murder. Reid Fiest reports.
Zackariah Rathwell, 21, Jordan Segura, 22, Josh Hunter, 23, Kaitlin Perras, 23, and Lawrence Hong, 27, were stabbed to death at a house party on April 15, 2014.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Remembering the Brentwood 5
De Grood sat in the prisoner’s box with his head down, sometimes looking up at Justice Eric Macklin as he read his judgment Wednesday. His parents, along with the families of the five victims, also listened carefully to the judgment. Many family members cried as the verdict was delivered and de Grood’s statement was read.
Read below for a letter written by de Grood, presented in court after the verdict was delivered:
In his decision, Macklin reviewed information from an agreed statement of facts, emphasizing de Grood talked about “crazy theories” and that his “dominating thought was the world was ending at midnight.” Macklin noted de Grood told people at the party he was getting ready for the “apocalypse” and was watching for the moon to turn red.
He repeated what court heard earlier in the trial: that de Grood ate garlic at the party, fearing vampires, and reiterated de Grood had “superhero-like strength” as police arrested him.
Watch below: Global’s ongoing coverage of the trial of Matthew de Grood
Macklin then reviewed the mental health assessments of de Grood, including testimony from three independent experts that suggested he suffered from a psychotic illness, delusions, and most likely, schizophrenia. Macklin added de Grood was certified under the Mental Health Act after his arrest.
Macklin said experts were unanimous in thinking he suffered from a psychotic episode, and accepted their opinion that de Grood suffered from a mental disorder at the time of the killings.
“He did not know or appreciate his actions were morally wrong,” Macklin said.
Prior to delivering the verdict itself, Macklin emphasized the law around an NCR ruling ensures people who have mental disorders are treated, not punished. He said an NCR verdict is not an acquittal, and that if there’s a risk to the public, steps will be taken to secure the person in question.
Macklin called it a “difficult and tragic case” and praised the defence and prosecution for their sensitive approach.
Watch below: The families of the five young adults killed at a Brentwood house party in 2014 released a joint public statement on Wednesday following the conclusion of Matthew de Grood’s murder trial. Victim Lawrence Hong’s brother Miles Hong read the statement outside the Calgary Courts Centre
De Grood will be detained in a psychiatric facility pending instructions by the Alberta Review Board. Court extended the timeframe to 90 days for the board’s first hearing.
Fay said de Grood will remain at the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre, or another such centre, until such time “if it ever occurs” that the Alberta Review Board deems he’s no longer a significant risk.
“If they ever reach that point, then I hope that there would be gradual reintegration into society,” Fay said. “But if they don’t reach that position, he could spend the rest of his life in custody.”
Watch below: Matthew de Grood’s defence lawyer, Allan Fay, on the possibility of a high risk NCR designation
The 24-year-old pleaded not guilty to five counts of first-degree murder Monday.
The Crown referred to de Grood as a “killing machine” Tuesday, and said the murders were done with “brutality and ruthless efficiency.” However, Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg agreed with the defence, saying de Grood should be found NCR.
LIVE BLOG RECAP: Global reporter Nancy Hixt has been tweeting the details of the trial live from the Calgary Courts Centre