The night Blake Schreiner killed his partner Tammy Brown, he was preoccupied with his deteriorating relationship and the prospect of losing his two young children in a custody battle, according to the final witness called during the murder trial.
Clinical forensic psychologist Dr. Anne Pleydon was part of a Saskatchewan Hospital team that assessed Schreiner’s mental health and state of mind at the time of the January 2019 killing.
“He was extremely preoccupied and stressed with his relationship and wondering what would happen with the custody of his children,” Pleydon said.
Schreiner, 39, admits to stabbing and killing Brown but has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. The defence will argue that he should be found not criminally responsible (NCR) because he had a mental disorder at the time of the killing, which rendered him incapable of understanding his actions.
An autopsy determined Brown, 39, was stabbed about 80 times.
Pleydon first met Schreiner when he was admitted to Saskatchewan Hospital on March 21, 2019. The first words out of his mouth were “I murdered my wife,” when asked if he knew why he’d been brought there, according to the psychologist.
During the initial meeting, Schreiner said he had experienced paranoia, describing it as a state of confusion and not knowing what was going to happen to him, Pleydon testified. He also mentioned people he didn’t know calling his phone and described hearing voices telling him to kill himself, the psychologist said.
A followup interview on April 3, 2019 delved into the night of the crime and Schreiner’s mental health symptoms.
Schreiner told the assessment team he was worried about the relationship and what Brown would say in a custody battle. He was asked about a comment made during his Saskatoon police interview that Brown would make him appear to be a pedophile.
“He had not brought that up, ever, spontaneously in our entire assessment,” Pleydon testified.
When asked specifically about the pedophilia statement, Schreiner said he feared Brown would portray him that way to get the children and possibly send him to jail, according to the psychologist. Brown never made the threat out loud, Pleydon said.
“His children were foremost on his mind,” she testified.
Under cross-examination by the Crown, Pleydon said Schreiner gave inconsistent accounts about his cannabis and alcohol use before the killing.
Initially, Schreiner said he hadn’t used either between November 2018 and the killing on Jan. 29, 2019, Pleydon said. Later in the assessment, he admitted to drinking in December and smoking cannabis a few days before the crime, along with drinking during the afternoon and evening before the stabbing and after it.
With testimony complete, Justice Ron Mills will hear closing arguments on April 7.
Crown prosecutor Melodi Kujawa intends to argue Schreiner understood the gravity of his actions when he killed Brown.
Under the Criminal Code of Canada, a person should be found NCR if their actions take place while the accused has a mental disorder that leaves her or him “incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act … or of knowing that it was wrong.”