A mentally ill man who stabbed and killed five young people at a Calgary house party seven years ago could be in a group home by Christmas but is a long way from being released back into the community, a review board heard Wednesday.
Matthew de Grood, 30, was found not criminally responsible for the 2014 killings of Zackariah Rathwell, Jordan Segura, Kaitlin Perras, Josh Hunter and Lawrence Hong because he was suffering from schizophrenia at the time.
He appeared at his annual Alberta Review Board hearing to assess his treatment and whether he should be allowed any increased privileges or freedoms over the next year.
The review board is expected to release its decision in a few weeks.
The board heard that de Grood’s psychosis is in full remission and there have been no problems with him taking his medications.
A psychiatrist treating him at Edmonton’s Alberta Hospital said transitioning into a group home is a logical next step but recommended de Grood remain under a full mental health warrant instead of receiving a conditional discharge.
“There are some significant uncertainties,” said Dr. Santoch Rai. “The treatment team has decided to resolve those uncertainties in favour of what we feel is a necessary consideration of the safety of the public.”
Rai said the mental health warrant allows de Grood to be returned to the hospital immediately if he deteriorates and stops taking his medications.
“He can appear very well to the point where he can actually function in an employment setting in the morning and then in the evening to do something very serious,” he said.
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He has the “ability when he’s ill to inflict very serious harm on multiple people and do that very quickly.”
De Grood’s trial heard that he was a university student who went to the party being held to mark the end of the school year. He attacked others there believing the devil was talking to him and a war was about to begin that signalled the end of the world.
A judge ruled that he was delusional then and did not understand his actions were wrong.
Rai said de Grood could eventually be allowed more freedoms but “I think we’re quite a long way away from that.”
He also said it might be beneficial for de Grood to move back to Calgary in order to be closer to his family. But de Grood’s lawyer, Allan Fay, told the hearing that his client isn’t requesting the move and wants to stay in Edmonton for the foreseeable future.
De Grood, wearing a mask, addressed the review board and said he’s not asking for sympathy.
“I accept what I have done and I’m truly sorry. I just hope one day I will be seen as a person who is able to earn his way back into society. The weight of this tragedy bears heavily on my shoulders and has not lightened over time,” he said.
“I carry the shame and guilt with me 24-7 and will forever. I want to make amends in any way I can. I’m committed to managing my illness.”
Doug and Susan de Grood also filed a statement with the board saying their son is a human being and not a monster.
“Nothing prepared us for the increasing crusade of seeking a lifetime punishment for Matthew. We feel the need to remind those who seem to have forgotten that Matthew has already been through the trial and found to be (not criminally responsible),” they wrote.
“Yet some people feel the review board hearings every year should be treated like a quest for justice.”
The board heard statements from the families of the victims. Many were frustrated and angry.
“This is the sixth victim impact statement I will be submitting since my son Joshua’s life was taken by Matthew de Grood. I struggle every year with writing to honour Josh,” said Kelly Hunter.
“I get so sad at times I just can’t seem to think of Josh without feeling sad about him not being here anymore. I miss him terribly.”
Shannon Miller said nothing is going to take away the pain of losing her daughter Kaiti.
“The truth is Kaiti didn’t die. She was murdered and there’s a huge difference between the two,” she said.
“How do you articulate having Kaiti ripped from my life? She was my baby girl. She was part of who I am and now that is gone forever. It shatters me.”