February 25, 2019 8:04 pm
Updated: February 25, 2019 8:07 pm

Man found not criminally responsible in stabbing death of Peterborough woman could soon be released

WATCH ABOVE: The best friend of a woman stabbed to death less than three years ago fears the killer could soon be living in the community. As Catherine reports, an Ontario Review Board hearing for John Lai is scheduled for Wednesday.


Stacey Fox says she has had nightmares since her best friend Cindy Torbar was stabbed 127 times in 2016 in Peterborough.

Now she and husband said they fear John Lai, the man found not criminally responsible for Torbar’s death, could be allowed to live in the community after the mental health facility where he’s being treated moved up the date for his annual Ontario Review Board (ORB) hearing to this Wednesday from May.

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“I don’t really think there’s anything that I could say that’s going to change the opinion of what the ORB is going to do. They haven’t really listened to us in the past. I really think what they’ve done to my family is cruel. Leaving him down here,” Fox explained to Global News.

She lives just two-and-a-half blocks from Ontario Shores, the mental health facility where John Lai has been living since being found not criminally responsible in May 2017.

READ MORE: SIU clears Peterborough police officer who shot suspect in fatal stabbing

According to an agreed statement of facts, Lai stabbed Torbar, who was his landlord, on March 16, 2016. He yelled “I am Jesus Christ” and “I must kill the demons” before attacking Torbar with a ten-inch butcher knife. Police arrived and fired two shots in an effort to disarm Lai. He was cuffed and restrained and continued to talk about demons.

The crown and defence, in a joint submission, agreed that Lai was suffering from intense schizophrenia at the time of the offence and was detained on the secure forensic service unit at Ontario Shores.

The disposition from his ORB hearing in May 2018 found that Lai, while still a significant threat, responded well to medication, had good insight and had not exhibited any aggressive or violent beliefs or behaviours.

Officials called him a “most cooperative and pleasant patient” who has maintained a stable progression towards recovery and committed to abstinence. Lai is also said to have had successful outings with his mother, who is an approved person.

READ MORE: 25-year-old man charged with murder in landlord’s death in Peterborough, Ont.

While he experienced delusions in December 2017 and a nightmare in March 2018 that echoed his delusions, he was transferred to the general unit and given more privileges including indirectly supervised community passes.

The disposition also granted an order that Lai be transferred to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, but reminded Lai that CAMH has a wait list and cautioned that a transfer could take some time. That transfer has yet to happen.

“What we’ve asked from day one was that John be transferred to CAMH. The judge had requested he be placed in CAMH because they were aware of our proximity to this hospital,” said Fox’s frustrated husband Don.

“The crown attorney requested CAMH. John’s family requested he be placed at CAMH. We were told he wouldn’t be here. He’s been here for almost two years.”

READ MORE: What happens when a killer is found not criminally responsible?

Fox and her husband said they worry that the ORB could allow Lai to live in supportive housing or discharged within the community. The couple have let neighbours know about the upcoming hearing through a community Facebook group and hope neighbours show up.

“I think the system now fast tracks NCRs. In our view, NCR should just be an acronym for no criminal record,” Stacey said, explaining her anger about Lai’s potential release.

She said she never imagined he could be up for release after less than three years.

“He’s sick for him to do what he did for her. I would have thought ten years to get help,” Stacey said.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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