GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find disturbing.
It’s been eight years since Kenneth Barter was deemed not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder for the Vernon murder of his friend.
Last week the B.C. Review Board handed Barter an absolute discharge, a decision that the board’s website explains means Barter is “totally free to go.”
The absolute discharge also indicates the board believes Barter is not a significant risk to public safety.
However, the review board’s decision has outraged the victim’s family.
Nathan Mayrhofer’s sister Rebecca Mayrhofer said the decision is completely wrong.
“We are actually shocked and furious,” said Rebecca, who believes Barter should have been given a conditional discharge.
WATCH: Extended interview with Rebecca Mayrhofer
In August 2010, 32-year-old Nathan Mayrhofer crashed on the couch at Barter’s Vernon apartment after a night of drinking.
However, Barter was living with paranoid-schizophrenia and wasn’t taking his medication.
He believed Mayrhofer was trying to hypnotize him.
Barter killed his friend with a hammer, dismembered the body in a bathtub, put the body parts into plastic bags, and put the bags into his fridge and freezer.
In 2011, the Vernon man was deemed not criminally responsible for the killing and sent to a forensic institution in the Lower Mainland.
Now the prospect of Barter resuming a normal life free from conditions has Mayrhofer’s family concerned.
“I’m concerned that he will be a risk to my family members because he can go back to Vernon no problem, and I’m also concerned that he will be a risk to the public because nobody who he interacts with in the future will have any idea if he chooses not to tell,” Rebecca said.
“They will have no warning or anything so that if he does go off his meds or he does take drugs or alcohol and starts spiraling mentally again, he will become a danger and they have nothing to warn them.”
However, Barter’s lawyer, Shane Dugas, said the board looked at all the evidence and found Barter doesn’t pose a significant risk to the public, including the Mayrhofer family.
Dugas said, over his years of treatment, Barter has become convinced he must take his medication for his own health and the health of others.
READ MORE: Barter sentence to be determined Tuesday
Dugas points out that Barter has been living in the community with conditions for a number of years already and has a support system in place including a psychiatrist.
“He is not necessarily cut loose into a system with no care. He is moved into a private system where he has a psychiatrist, he has a support system, he can have a social worker,” Dugas said.
“The system he was in before wasn’t one where he was in jail. He was free living in an apartment, and he would see a treating psychiatrist three or four times a year, which is exactly what will happen now.”
Rebecca would like to see continued mandatory monitoring of violent offenders to make sure their mental health is being maintained, and they are staying on their medications.
Mayrhofer wants to see the changes to protect public safety in memory of her brother.
READ MORE: Murderer committed to mental hospital
While he will no longer be monitored by the criminal justice system, Barter will still be involved with the health care system.
“Now that the experts have determined that he is not a risk anymore, he is now in a system where he will continue to be treated and continued to be monitored,” Dugas said.
“He has been able to expand his support system and currently he is engaged with a number of individuals, church groups, friends, family who do monitor his situation, and if he does show any signs of deterioration, I’m certain they would report him.”
In response to a request for comment, the B.C. Review Board only answered logistical questions about the case and did not address the concerns raised by the Mayrhofer family.
– with files from Barry McDivitt