April 15, 2019 marks the anniversary of a dark day in Calgary’s history.
It’s been five years since five young people lost their lives in a mass killing — a day each family relives the tragedy.
Zackariah Rathwell, 21, Jordan Segura, 22, Josh Hunter, 23, Kaitlin (Kaiti) Perras, 23, and Lawrence Hong, 27, died after being attacked and stabbed at a house party on April 15, 2014.
“Each family has their own trigger depending on who and how they were approached by the homicide detectives,” said Kaiti’s father Gregg Perras on Monday.
“I think of the 8 a.m. phone call from my wife telling me CPS is at our house and imploring me to come home,” he said. Perras described how difficult it was to know his daughter died on the operating table before he even knew what had happened.
Matthew de Grood was declared not criminally responsible (NCR) for the killings.
It was determined de Grood was mentally ill at the time of the fatal stabbings and wasn’t able to understand his actions were morally wrong.
Since then, de Grood’s status is assessed at a hearing held once a year by the Alberta Review Board (ARB).
In 2018, he was moved from the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre to Edmonton Hospital where he is allowed to take escorted trips into the community.
His next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 17.
The families of the victims told Global News they are worried it’s a matter of time before he will be granted a full discharge, as was the case with Vince Li.
Li was given full freedom, less than a decade after beheading 22-year-old Timothy McLean on a Greyhound bus in 2008.
“The significance of the tragedy has quickly been replaced by a flawed review process that focuses entirely on the well-being of the perpetrator,” Perras said.
“The victims and their families are forgotten in the process and victim impact statements have no bearing on the outcome for the perpetrator in the ARB process.”
Following the increased freedoms granted at the last hearing, Perras said he lodged a complaint with Alberta’s Justice Minister and has yet to have the matter resolved to his satisfaction.
Perras said he plans to take the complaint forward once again with whoever takes over that ministry following Tuesday’s provincial election.
The families have said the reintegration is happening too fast, and they believe an absolute discharge should be off the table.
“We all believe he should be treated well and supported but in a structured hospital setting,” Perras said.
The families are now focused on creating a place to honour their loved ones, in the form of an interactive musical garden and performance stage.
The Quinterra Legacy Garden will be a special place people can go to heal and remember the five young people. It will include elements that reflect each of their personalities through arts and design.
“I miss Zackariah every day,” said his mother Ronda-Lee Rathwell. “I miss his smile, his music, his art, his ability to include and accept people as they are.”
“I’m excited to get Quinterra Legacy Gardens built so that I and all of Calgary will have a place to remember and heal and grow,” she said.
A fundraising effort is underway to help pay for the project and future maintenance costs.
The goal is to have the park open by August.
“It will help our city heal from this tragedy and provide a fun, welcoming place for all Calgarians to visit and enjoy,” Perras said.