PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. – Clean-shaven and quiet, a far cry from the wild-eyed child killer who yelled at his victims’ mother at his murder trial, Allan Schoenborn asked a B.C. Review Board panel Friday to recommend his transfer from British Columbia to a psychiatric hospital in Manitoba, where his mother and other family members would be able to visit him.
In a hearing that took less than half an hour, the man found not criminally responsible due to mental disorder of the slayings of his three children did not seek any passes to leave the secure hospital.
“My family is in Winnipeg. I was born and raised in Winnipeg. It’s the right place to be,” Schoenborn told the three-members of the review board panel.
His mother has come from Manitoba to visit him at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in suburban Port Coquitlam several times, he said.
“She loves me and I love her,” he told the panel members.
“Do you have any support here in B.C.?” asked Barry Long, chairman of the panel.
“No,” answered Schoenborn, who appeared dressed in jeans and a denim shirt.
“If you go to the hospital in Manitoba, do you think your family will go and visit you there?” Long asked.
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“Yes, definitely,” Schoenborn said.
A few hours later, the panel issued a decision that recommended the transfer. The decision is only the first of many steps towards a possible transfer. The final decision will be made by the attorneys general of both provinces, a spokesman for the B.C. Crown said Friday.
Few cases in the recent annals of Canadian justice have sparked as much collective public outrage as the horrific deaths of 10-year-old Kaitlynne, eight-year-old Max and five-year-old Cordon.
Schoenborn stabbed his daughter and then smothered his sons in April 2008, leaving their bodies to be found by their mother, Darcie Clarke.
At his trial, amongst violent outbursts and threats, he testified he killed the children to protect them from an imagined threat of sexual abuse. The Crown argued the killings were the product of jealousy and rage after Clarke left him and moved to Merritt, B.C.
The public reaction has added to the challenge of treatment, Dr. Marcel Hediger, Schoenborn’s psychiatrist, told the panel.
“He has experienced some somewhat unique hurdles… because of the notoriety of his crime,” Hediger said. It has also “created some challenges for us within this facility.”
Hediger said he is not opposed to the transfer, adding that having closer contact with family would benefit Schoenborn.
Two years ago, the review board’s decision to grant him the possibility of supervised leave from the hospital sparked further controversy. A few weeks later, Schoenborn withdrew his request, but in the interim was badly beaten by two fellow patients.
He told the panel Friday that he has only “select movement” in the hospital in Port Coquitlam.
“It’s starting to become bothersome,” he said. “And I miss my mom.”
The statement prompted little sympathy from family members of Darcie Clarke, seated in a row of chairs a short distance from Schoenborn, behind a fabric rope.
Outside the hearing, Darcie Clarke’s brother, Mike, said he was relieved his former brother-in-law did not seek permission to leave the secure facility. But Clarke opposed the transfer.
“I have children who live and also grandchildren who live in Manitoba and they’re in the area he’ll be transferred to – if he’s transferred,” Clarke said.
Clarke said he was pleased that – for at least another year – Schoenborn will remain under strict watch.
“That makes me happy, that makes my sister happy,” he said, adding the recovery for the family is still a day-to-day struggle.
“My children, they miss their cousins a lot. They miss playing with them, they miss growing up with them and having all the fun, because they’re all fairly close in age.”
Neil Mackenzie, a spokesman for the provincial criminal justice branch, said the Crown does not oppose the transfer because Schoenborn’s treatment team felt there could be benefits both for treatment and in risk-management.
“The Crown’s concern in these proceedings primarily is ensuring the safety of the public. Part of that is seeing an individual receive effective treatment,” Mackenzie said after the hearings.
The Selkirk Mental Health Centre, outside Winnipeg, is the same facility that houses Vince Li, who beheaded passenger Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus in July 2008.
The terrible deaths of Kaitlynne, Max and Cordon prompted changes to laws provincially and federally.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced reforms to the laws governing mentally ill offenders last week, creating a “high-risk” designation that would allow what are now annual hearings to be prolonged to every three years, at the discretion of the review board.
The province also introduced a domestic violence action plan after a child death review found B.C.’s social safety net had failed the children.
Schoenborn was hospitalized in 1999 for a delusional disorder and the next nine years were a roller-coaster of incidents that involved variously police, social workers and mental health workers, the provincial children’s watchdog found.
The year before the killings saw an escalation in incidents of domestic violence and confrontations. In the week before they were found dead, Schoenborn was arrested and released three times.
Stacy Galt, Darcie Clark’s cousin, said the family will petition the attorney general to stop the transfer.
She noted the change in Schoenborn’s demeanour, but she was adamant that the family wants the reforms to be retroactive so that he can be deemed “high-risk.”
“He doesn’t look like Charles Manson any more. He is very clean-cut, shaven, looks like he’s in great shape and he’s doing very well,” she said.
“I was kind of shocked to see that but pleased as well, I mean, you want people to get better.”