A man who stabbed five young people to death at a Calgary house party will not be released from a group home after a ruling Thursday from Alberta’s highest court.
Matthew de Grood, who is now in his early 30s, was found not criminally responsible in 2016 for the killings of Zackariah Rathwell, Jordan Segura, Kaitlin Perras, Josh Hunter and Lawrence Hong. He was suffering from undiagnosed and untreated schizophrenia at the time of the stabbings in 2014.
He asked the Alberta Court of Appeal for an absolute or conditional discharge so he could be closer to his family in Calgary and start to integrate back into society.
His lawyer, Jacqueline Petrie, argued a mental health review board misunderstood the medical evidence on de Grood’s risk assessment in 2022 and that he doesn’t pose a risk. She said he should be allowed an absolute release.
The Court of Appeal said de Grood failed to argue any reviewable error.
The three-judge panel, while unanimously dismissing the appeal, said it was reasonable for the review board to find de Grood still posed a risk of serious violent behaviour.
They said that although de Grood “is undoubtedly much less dangerous” compared to when the stabbings happened in 2014, “his transition to unrestricted life in the community will not happen overnight.”
“It is a journey for him,” the judges said.
In 2019, the Alberta Review Board allowed him to live in a group home in Edmonton after his treatment team reported he was in remission.
As he continues to live under supervision at a group home, de Grood’s case is to be reviewed by the board every year to see whether he can transition back into his community while maintaining public safety.
The court said de Grood “has undoubtedly made progress, but the treatment team thought his health is still fragile.”
“He is highly responsive to his oral medication, but any disruption in that medication may cause him to compensate,” the judges said.
Petrie argued that the review board’s risk assessment in 2022 was biased and influenced by comments made by former justice minister Doug Schweitzer.
After the 2019 decision to allow de Grood to live in the group home, Schweitzer said he would advocate for Ottawa to make changes in standards of release and request that the Alberta Review Board include the maximum possible input of victims during the hearing process.
The judges said a minister of justice, “by virtue of his office,” is entitled to question and promote changes in the province.
“There is nothing objectionable about a minister querying or lobbying for changes to the review procedures,” the ruling says.
De Grood also argued that there were issues with the fairness of the proceedings.
His appeal said that a parent of one of the young adults killed “unlawfully accessed the private health-care records” of him and his family. The claims were investigated by the Information and Privacy Commissioner, but no charges were laid.
The judges said there was “no air of reality” to the claims that the parent’s presence during the virtual hearing could affect de Grood’s or his family’s safety, or affect the fairness of the procedure.
They said de Grood’s complaints about the fairness of his hearing were without merit.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2023.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Ritika Dubey, The Canadian Press