Mother of murdered woman wants mental health reform
Police called many times but lacked tools to deal with bipolar accused, mom says
Lacey Jones McKnight's bed is made. Her collection of colourful high heels is lined up on a shoe rack just outside her closet. A photo collage of friends hangs on one of the walls.
Since the 20-year-old was killed last Oct. 25, her mother Shelly Jones hasn't been able to take anything from her daughter's room.
"It's destroyed my life. I don't have happy days anymore," explained a tearful Jones.
McKnight was found dead in a car about three weeks after she had broken up with her boyfriend, Kristopher Guenther.
Shelly Jones says Guenther had stopped taking his medication for bipolar disorder and had threatened suicide.
"He had sent her a message that he was going to commit suicide and that he was going to be watching her from above," said Jones. "And of course she was devastated."
That was just one of the times police showed up at the family's home.
"That officer came and we explained to him that, yes, he's bipolar and he's not taking his medication."
Jones also says Guenther began stalking Lacey and threatening her to the point where police were called seven times in three weeks.
The night McKnight was killed Guenther was found trying to hang himself from a bridge close to where her body was discovered. Soon after, he was charged with second-degree murder.
Alberta has the 2nd highest rate of murder-suicide
Gary Gibbens, a domestic violence specialist at YWCA Sheriff King Home, says women are diagnosed with depression up to six times more frequently than men — but men can have much more serious problems battling it.
"Men handle their depression by becoming irritable and projecting anger out in indirect ways or explosive ways," explained Gibbens. "So instead of dealing with what may be a treatable depression problem which may be long term, they focus on being irritable, upset with other people."
Statistically, men are more likely to commit murder-suicide, and Alberta has the second highest rate in the country behind Newfoundland and Labrador.
In this province, the rate is more than double that of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and P.E.I.
Gibbens says there are often a host of warning signs leading up to a tragedy, including manic, jealous, controlling and threatening behavior, as well as substance abuse.
Jones says she saw all of those symptoms in Guenther and is angry and frustrated police weren't able to prevent her daughter's death.
"He had a mental illness but there were significant and repeated signs of violence and I want the police to take it more seriously. I want our mental health system to change. There's got to be more laws put in place that the police can act on so that the victim, so that the public, is safe. None of those things happened in my daughter’s case."
Jones says mental illness or not, the person who did this to her daughter was just plain evil.
"She was my best friend," said Jones of her daughter. "I've always said that she just inspired me to be a better person. I wished I could have been more like her."