'No joy' in murder conviction for man who stabbed Abbotsford teen, family spokesperson says
NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. -- A B.C. Supreme Court justice has found Gabriel Klein guilty of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Abbotsford high school student Letisha Reimer.
Madame Justice Heather Holmes delivered her judgement Friday to a packed courtroom, mostly friends and family of the slain 13-year-old, some of whom cried as she told the accused to rise and pronounced him guilty.
The killing rattled the entire community of Abbotsford back in November 2016, and Reimer's school became the site of a large shrine to her memory, with flowers and notes carpeting the front entrance.
Holmes also found Klein guilty of aggravated assault for stabbing Reimer’s friend four times moments before attacking her.
The judge directed the gallery to cover up or remove black and red T-shirts in support of Reimer’s family reading #AbbyStrong before she would deliver her verdict.
“In my view, there’s no evidence in this case that any mental disturbance Mr. Klein may have been experiencing at the time of the attack affected his ability to see the ordinary consequences of the attack,” said Holmes.
"This is no joy for the family, this is just one more step in the journey,” said family spokesperson Dave Teixeira. “If there's any solace everyone can have, it's that the justice made the right decision."
Klein had pleaded not guilty, but his lawyer, Martin Peters, offered zero evidence or witnesses in his defence, nor did he raise the possibility that the man was not criminally responsible for stabbing Reimer and another teen at Abbotsford Senior Secondary in November 2016. Peters had argued Klein should be found guilty of manslaughter because he couldn’t form the intent to murder.
But Crown counsel insisted his actions were lucid and purposeful, presenting video evidence showing Klein calmly stealing alcohol from a liquor store and a hunting knife from a Cabela’s store the day of the killing. A psychiatrist who interviewed him the next day testified that Klein had told her he was intending to attack a police officer with the goal of "suicide by cop," and that Klein had said the students looked to him like “monsters.”
Judge Holmes repeatedly pointed to inconsistencies in Klein’s statements to psychiatrists, medical workers and corrections staff with whom he’d been “chatty.” She noted psychiatrists found Klein to be evasive when they asked him to explain his alleged hallucinations in detail.
“He expressed shock and regret at what he did – I think he expressed he was surprised as anyone by what he'd done," Peters told reporters following the verdict. “I'm hoping that he will obtain a disposition which keeps him in a psychiatric facility. He is schizophrenic, his schizophrenia has been very successfully treated with medication, but this is a life condition that won't change."
The BC Review Board found Klein mentally fit to stand trial. The court heard evidence he’d been diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2017.
Sentencing will take place June 1 and 2 and is expected to include numerous victim impact statements. Klein's lawyer told the judge his client is Métis and requested a Gladue Report, which takes into account the Indigenous background of offenders and could have an impact on Klein’s parole eligibility; second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence.
When asked whether Reimer’s parents had a feeling of closure, Teixeira said “relieved” would be a better description.
“I'm not sure closure's the right word in this,” he explained. “I don't know how anyone can see closure when they see their daughter off to school and then don't see her come home.”
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Maria Weisgarber