Stabbing suspect deemed 'significant threat' with 'high risk of relapsing' at hearing 5 months before release
Former Abbotsford police chief Bob Rich to conduct an independent review, says Premier David Eby
The man accused of stabbing three people in Vancouver's Chinatown while out on a day pass from a forensic psychiatric hospital was described as a "significant threat" and a "high risk of relapsing" at a hearing five months ago.
Blair Evan Donnelly, 64, has been living at Coquitlam's Forensic Psychiatric Hospital since he was found not criminally responsible for stabbing his teenage daughter to death in 2006.
A British Columbia Review Board (BCRB) document dated April 13, 2023 and published by CHEK News, said Donnelly has a "pattern of rapid decompensation and violence in the past," including another two stabbings since his incarceration began.
CBC's requests for the documents have been denied by the BCRB.
On Thursday, Premier David Eby announced that former Abbotsford police chief Bob Rich will conduct an independent review of how Donnelly was allowed to leave the hospital on a day pass.
Donnelly allegedly stabbed three strangers — a couple in their 60s and a woman in her early 20s — at the Light Up Chinatown festival on Sunday.
Eby says the review board report clearly concluded the man was a significant risk and shouldn't be let out, but somehow between that decision and the attack in Chinatown, he was released from the facility.
The April decision says, "The accused has re-offended after long periods of remission between violent episodes and without any significant warning signs. ... Therefore, a cautious approach is necessary to protect the public."
The review board found that the hospital continues to be "the only appropriate placement for the time being" for Donnelly.
The premier says he wants Rich to find out how Donnelly's release was possible in light of that information, and if there are other people under similar circumstances who may also be free on day passes.
B.C.'s Forensic Psychiatric Services released a statement late Thursday afternoon saying the Provincial Health Services Authority has launched a critical incident review in response to the stabbing.
The statement says the review board holds annual hearings to determine whether patients should remain in custody, and if they should receive privileges like community outings. Once someone is determined to be eligible for day passes, safety assessments are conducted by hospital staff to decide whether outings should be allowed.
"On the day of a scheduled outing, the patient is assessed to decide whether they are stable and well enough to visit the community. If not, the outing is cancelled or postponed," the statement said.
Suspect believed God wanted him to kill his daughter
In 2006, Donnelly was charged with second-degree murder for the gruesome stabbing death of his 16-year-old daughter. According to the review board decision published by CHEK News, he had planned to kill his wife instead, but changed his mind in the belief that God wanted his daughter dead.
He was found not criminally responsible due to mental disorder and was incarcerated at the forensic hospital.
The BCRB document notes two other stabbing incidents.
In 2009, while out on a day pass, Donnelly consumed cocaine and then "suddenly" stabbed a friend. Donnelly was convicted of assault with a weapon and sentenced to 45 days in jail.
In 2017, he suddenly attacked a fellow patient with a butter knife shortly after returning from a leave and was subsequently found not criminally responsible on a charge of assault with a weapon and granted an absolute discharge.
"Of significant concern regarding risk assessment, is that all the incidents occurred without warning signs and that the two relapses occurred after lengthy periods of remission without any indicators of decompensation," said the document.
Advocate calls for accountability
Victims rights advocate Dave Teixeira believes there needs to be more accountability from the B.C. Review Board and more transparency into its decisions behind releases.
"Looking at the decision and reasons, he's a high risk to re-offend. He's a violent offender. He's had numerous instances. Why is he being let out? That is really the question," said Teixeira. "The review board process needs to be held accountable for the decision to allow Donnelly leave."
Teixeira is an advocate for Darcy Clarke and her family. Clarke's three children were murdered by their father Allan Schoenborn in 2008 and similar to Donnelly, he was found not criminally responsible because he was experiencing psychosis at the time of the killings.
Schoenborn has also been granted leave from the FPH, despite the Clarke family's objections.
"Both [Schoenborn and Donnelly] have been found to be a high risk to the public and yet the B.C. Review Board just doesn't care. They play experiments," he said.
Donnelly remains in custody, charged with three counts of aggravated assault. A bail hearing is scheduled for Friday.
With files from the Canadian Press and Bethany Lindsay