By Bob Weber
EDMONTON — A review board has ruled that a mentally ill man found not criminally responsible after killing five young people at a house party can be eased back into the community under strict controls.
But the Alberta Review Board says Matthew de Grood of Calgary remains a potential danger and must be monitored by experts.
“De Grood is a significant threat to the safety of the public and this may continue some time into the future,” the board said in a written decision released Tuesday.
It spells out a series of privileges that de Grood may enjoy, subject to increasing levels of oversight.
With the approval of his doctors, he will be able to leave Alberta Hospital in Edmonton for supervised outings in the city, where his parents now live. Depending on de Grood’s progress, they may also approve unsupervised city day passes.
With the approval of higher authorities at Alberta Hospital, de Grood could be granted supervised passes for up to three days in Edmonton. Those authorities could also OK travel in Alberta for up to a week, as long as he was with a responsible adult and received prior approval.
De Grood’s doctors could authorize stays in Edmonton for up to one week for the sole purpose to help him transition into a supervised group home. Any final move would have to be approved at higher levels. The board writes that decision could come “in the very near future.”
The easing of restrictions was supported by the Crown, de Grood’s treatment team and de Grood himself.
In 2016, a trial heard that the 22-year-old believed that the devil was talking to him and that a war signalling the end of the world was about to begin when he arrived at the Calgary house party, which was being held to mark the end of the school year.
He killed Zackariah Rathwell, 21; Jordan Segura, 22; Kaitlin Perras, 23; Josh Hunter, 23; and Lawrence Hong, 27.
He was found to be suffering from schizophrenic delusions at the time and was not held criminally responsible. The review board decided last year that de Grood, with his mental illness in remission, could be transferred from a secure psychiatric hospital in Calgary to Alberta Hospital in Edmonton.
“Any expansion of privileges will occur at a very slow pace and close supervision is warranted,” said the board’s decision.
“The board is of the view that significantly more time is required to evaluate and test the potential for relapse.”
The decision quotes from a report by Santoch Rai, the psychiatrist in charge of de Grood’s treatment.
“Should he relapse and reoffend … the violence is likely to be unexpected, rapid, extreme and with multiple victims.”
At the hearing, families of his victims said their suffering continues as de Grood gains more freedoms. They objected to government-funded support and treatment he receives while they get nothing to help them with their own trauma.
“The family members of the victims are in considerable pain,” the board wrote. “For most, the process of attending hearings annually serves as a painful reminder.”
Greg Perras, father of Kaitlin, said the families will continue to lobby to remove the possibility of an absolute discharge after any verdict of not criminally responsible.
De Grood’s condition and the rules of his confinement are to continue to be assessed annually.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 1, 2019.