B.C. high school stabbing case: Judge rejects finding that man convicted of killing teen was not criminally responsible
VANCOUVER -- A judge has rejected the possibility of a finding of not criminally responsible for the man who fatally stabbed a young teen at Abbotsford Senior Secondary School and seriously injured another student in 2016.
Gabriel Klein was convicted in March 2020 of the second degree murder of 13-year-old Letisha Reimer and the aggravated assault of another student. The defence of NCR was not raised during his trial, but before sentencing, the court was told Klein wanted to pursue the possibility of being found not criminally responsible.
In her decision, Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes said she found Klein’s evidence during a hearing to determine NCR “unreliable.”
“He claimed that he was depressed and suicidal as he walked to the school, a claim I find was likely exaggerated,” she said. “But he was certainly upset, and frustrated, and he may have been mentally unstable.”
Holmes said features of a “personality disorder,” such as impulsivity and aggression, along with the “disinhibiting effect of his alcohol consumption” may also have been factors.
“Mr. Klein also had an acknowledged tendency to act in ways intended to make others lives as difficult as perceived his own to be,” Holmes said, and added while nothing can explain Klein’s actions, “psychosis is not the only possible explanation for his unprovoked attacks on two girls he did not know in a school with which he had no association.”
Reimer’s family and friends were the courtroom to hear the decision. Brightly painted rocks were also left on the steps leading up to the courthouse, with messages like #Abbystrong and Reimer’s initials inside a heart.
Spokesperson for the family Dave Teixeira said they are happy the possibility of an NCR ruling is off the table.
“That was an absolutely ridiculous tactic,” he said. “Gabriel Klein does not want to go to jail for his crimes, and while we can understand that, that’s the next step, and he’s trying to avoid this.”
Klein’s lawyer Martin Peters said he made the decision to pursue NCR while preparing his client for sentencing last year.
“As I was questioning him again, and again, and again about the offence, it became clear that the issue of mental disability, mental disorder had to form part of this case,” he said.
When asked why that defence wasn’t raised during the trial, Peters said that was not the instruction he received from Klein at the time.
“We wanted to see whether the Crown could actually prove its case,” he said.
Teixeira called the NCR application “a real Hail Mary”.
“I’m very happy – and the family is very happy, as well – that the courts saw through this, and now we’ll move on to sentencing,” he said.
Klein, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia following the attacks, told the court during the hearing he was hearing voices almost every day around the time of the attacks. He testified when he went into the school he saw what he thought were monsters resembling a zombie and a witch, and heard a voice saying “kill, kill, kill.”
During the trial’s closing arguments, prosecutor Rob Macgowan told the court the evidence showed Klein was angry, desperate and hopeless at the time of the attack, and added the way he acted before and after the stabbings proved he would have been aware of the consequences of his actions, and could have formed the intent for murder.
The defence did not present evidence or call witnesses in the trial.
Sentencing submissions have been scheduled for June 22 and 23. A second-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence, and parole ineligibility can vary from 10 to 25 years.
Peters said he may ask for 12 to 15 years.
“I’m hoping, of course, for the lower end of that,” he said.
Klein is being remanded to a forensic psychiatric hospital to await sentencing.