Thomas Chan found guilty of manslaughter in death of his father
Thomas Chan – who claimed magic mushrooms caused him to have an “unprovoked” attack – has been found guilty of manslaughter in the death of his father and guilty of aggravated assault against his father’s longtime partner.
There were tears and hugs in a Peterborough Superior Court courtroom on Thursday morning as Justice Cary Boswell handed down his decision. He said Chan, 21, must be held responsible for the death of his father, Dr. Andrew Chan, and permanent injuries to Dr. Chan’s longtime partner, Lynn Witteveen.
Justice Cary Boswell also quashed an argument by Chan’s lawyers to have him declared not criminally responsible for the crime.
Chan was arrested and charged with the second-degree murder and attempted murder following an early morning incident at Dr. Chan’s Haggis Drive house in Peterborough on Dec. 28, 2015.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
“This case isn’t about whether Thomas did the crime — he did,” Boswell said in his opening remarks. “It’s about whether Thomas is criminally responsible for what happened.”
The trial heard Chan consumed magic mushrooms with friends hours before breaking into his father’s house. It was unclear how many mushrooms each person took. Court heard Chan took an extra dose after failing to feel the effects when his friends did, then began to meditate in order to enhance the experience.
Court heard that around 2 a.m. Chan’s behaviour began to change. His friends – who were with him that night – testified he began ranting about religion and called himself “God.” He then began calling people “devils,” including his mother and sister.
After getting into a confrontation with his friends and family, Chan ran from the house, making his way to his father’s house, court heard. Video surveillance obtained from cameras in Dr. Chan’s living room showed Chan entering the house barefoot, with his shirt open. A struggle could be heard off-camera.
Witteveen testified she got out of bed after hearing a commotion. She saw Dr. Chan and Thomas in the kitchen and that her partner had his hands in front of him, saying, “Thomas it’s Daddy, it’s Daddy.”
She testified Chan then stabbed his father and then and stabbed her in the chest.
Witteveen said she made it back to a bedroom and was calling 911 when Chan stabbed her again.
Court heard she was stabbed multiple times during the attack. She has since had eight surgeries, which included the removal of her right eye and sections of her bowels, and hernia repair. She suffered vocal chord paralysis and wounds to her arm and chest which have caused mobility issues.
LISTEN: Lynn Witteveen’s 911 call on Dec. 28, 2015
The defence argued Chan had a long history of concussions from playing high school rugby and grappled with depression and substance abuse. The defence said that made him more susceptible to the hallucinogenic effects of the mushroom, putting him in a psychotic state that rendered him incapable of appreciating his actions or the consequences of those actions.
The Crown compared Chan to an impaired driver who needs to be held accountable for what happened. The Crown agreed that Chan was likely in a psychotic state when he attacked his father, but stressed that Chan willingly put himself in that position.
Police video showed a calm Chan in custody telling officers the attack was not provoked and he wanted to highlight the risks of concussions and drug use.
“Believe me when I say I’m not a bad person and this was a ridiculous, unprovoked attack,” Chan is heard on an audio recording from a police cruiser.
Justice Boswell said he had to decide if Chan suffered a mental disorder at the time of the attack, and if so, did it render him incapable of appreciating the nature and consequences of his actions.
He said that there was no motive for the attack and that Chan was under the influence of drugs.
“It is readily apparent to me that Mr. Chan was experiencing an acute break with reality,” Boswell said.
He noted there was evidence Chan had a mild traumatic brain injury but said there was conflicting testimony on whether someone with a brain injury is more susceptible to the effects of hallucinogenic substances.
Boswell said in this case, there was not a sufficient scientific case to say that Chan’s brain injury made him more susceptible to the effects of the magic mushrooms.
As he finished reading his verdict, Boswell turned his attention to Chan, who sat quietly in the courtroom next to his lawyers.
“He is a romantic, a dreamer,” Boswell said. “He was, and is, loved by his close-knit family.”
Boswell said Chan is a “good person” who had something terrible happen to him and the people he cares about.
The case has been adjourned to Jan. 15, 2019 for sentencing.
WATCH: Crown closes case with police video interview of murder suspect Thomas Chan
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