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Man not criminally responsible for killing worker he believed was zombie, B.C. judge rules

James Carey Turok, of Nanaimo, B.C., is seen in an undated image. James Carey Turok, of Nanaimo, B.C., is seen in an undated image.
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The man who stabbed 79-year-old Eric Kutzner to death inside a Vancouver Island coffee shop two years ago has been found not criminally responsible – after the court heard a mental disorder had left him convinced his innocent victim was a zombie.

James Carey Turok, who was charged with second-degree murder in Kutzner's killing, will receive treatment at a forensic psychiatric hospital in the Lower Mainland instead of serving a life sentence in prison.

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes noted that two different psychiatrists concluded Turok had been suffering from bipolar-type schizoaffective disorder for years leading up to the killing.

"Mr. Turok’s mental disorder made him incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of his actions," Holmes wrote in her March 27 decision, which was posted online Thursday.

"His psychosis caused him to believe that Mr. Kutzner was not human."

The finding of not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder was supported by prosecutors. 

Victim helping out at daughter's shop

The disturbing and unprovoked attack on Kutzner took place on Feb. 12, 2022, at the Buzz Coffee House, which was owned by his daughter.

The court heard Kutzner would often help out at the Nanaimo business – which has since closed – and was there before opening to prepare baked goods on the morning he was killed.

Turok walked in through a door Kutzner had left unlocked for arriving employees and proceeded to stab him "repeatedly about the face, neck, chest and back," according to the decision.

Workers who showed up around 8:45 a.m. found that same door locked.

"Peering inside, they saw Mr. Kutzner’s blood-soaked legs, and Mr. Turok walking around, dripping blood," Holmes wrote.

In the aftermath of the tragic incident, Turok told police that his victim was a "zombie" or a "bag of puss" – remarks he had no recollection of making when interviewed by the two psychiatrists before trial.

Loved ones remembered Kutzner as a vibrant member of the community – a volunteer who dedicated himself to advocating for seniors’ housing and helping people with disabilities.

A history of remission and relapse

Medical records indicated Turok first showed signs of psychosis in 2012, and that he went through a pattern of hospitalization, remission and relapse in the years that followed.

"He was hospitalized in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2020, during which he did well in the community while taking anti-psychotic medication either voluntarily or as a condition of extended leave under the Mental Health Act," Holmes wrote.

After going off his medication, his psychotic symptoms would re-emerge.

There was no evidence his mental illness had resulted in serious violence before, however, and his prior criminal record only contained a single count of mischief.

His psychotic symptoms commonly led him to believe he had "special importance to heal and guide people," according to the decision, as well as the ability to "communicate telepathically, including with celebrities, political figures, and others."

Mental state in decline

To those who knew Turok, his mental health appeared to be in decline in the days leading up to the killing – with some noting "strange behaviour," including remarks that were "close to incoherent, and conspiracy-based," Holmes wrote.

The court heard he had been off his medication for nearly 18 months at that point.

"Three days before the offence, Mr. Turok presented himself at the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital in an agitated state, demanding to see one of his psychiatrists, and left angrily, yelling and kicking at the door, when he was unable to do so," the associate chief justice said.

"Only an hour or so before the offence, Mr. Turok drove his car into a median, where he abandoned it with the keys still in the ignition."

With the finding that he was not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder, Turok's case was referred to the B.C. Review Board for a hearing that must take place within 90 days of the decision.

In the meantime, Turok has been sent to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, a secure facility in Coquitlam for treating the severely mentally ill in the hopes of eventually integrating them back into society.

Correction

A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that Turok was convicted of second-degree murder in Kutzner's death. 

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