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Defence says accused in Calgary caseworker stabbing death needs mental assessment

Friends, co-workers of Calgary woman fatally stabbed call for better caseworker protection
WATCH: An 18-year-old man accused of stabbing his caseworker to death made his first court appearance and as Silvana Benolich reports, friends and co-workers of Deborah Onwu were also there calling for stronger protection for home care workers.

A lawyer for an 18-year-old charged with killing his caseworker at an assisted-living home says he doubts the young man is fit to stand trial.

Brandon Newman remains in custody charged with second-degree murder in the death of Deborah Onwu, who was stabbed at the home in southwest Calgary on Oct. 25.

The 18-year-old appeared in court Friday via a video link and said little.

Defence lawyer Allan Fay said he’s doubtful his client would be capable of properly instructing a lawyer for his defence.

“I’ve met with him several times,” Fay said outside court. “He strikes me as an extremely child-like individual.”

READ MORE: 47-year-old case worker stabbed to death in South Calgary on Friday: police

Fay asked to have the case put over until Monday, when Newman is to receive an initial assessment from a psychiatrist. That could result in Newman being sent to the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatric Centre.

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“If that’s the case, he’ll go there for about 30 days for an assessment. They’ll come back and at that time we’ll determine if we can proceed,” Fay said.

Police have said it’s believed there was a verbal and physical confrontation between Newman and Onwu, and she was stabbed.

The union that represented Onwu is calling for higher safety standards and staffing levels to protect other workers.

Lou Arab, a spokesman with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said in a statement that Newman has “complex health needs” and required two-on-one care.

Another worker was at the home the night Onwu was killed, he said, but that worker was on a different floor dealing with another client.

“(Onwu) was working alone and she should not have been,” said Arab.

READ MORE: Calgary man charged in stabbing death of case worker

Court records show Newman was charged with assault in August. He was to appear in court on that matter later this month.

Wood’s Homes, which operates mental-health facilities and programs for children and families throughout Alberta, has said it is co-operating with investigations by police and the province’s Occupational Health and Safety unit.

About 10 of Onwu’s friends, some care workers, gathered at court Friday wearing white T-shirts with Onwu’s picture on it and “Justice for Debbie” written on the back.

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“We believe that her death could have been prevented if the safety and the security measures were put in place,” said Rebecca Opoku-Ameyaw.

“This wouldn’t happen and we wouldn’t be standing here today.”