British Columbia

Man convicted of stabbing B.C. teen to death claims 'demon' voices told him to 'kill, kill, kill'

A man who stabbed a 13-year-old girl to death in the hallway of her Abbotsford high school in November 2016 claims he heard voices telling him to kill the victim and her friend.

Gabriel Klein is arguing he should be not be held criminally responsible for killing Letisha Reimer

Letisha Reimer was 13 when she was stabbed to death at her Abbotsford high school by Gabriel Klein in November 2016. Klein is arguing that he should not be held criminally responsible. (Ulrich Reimer/Facebook)

A man who stabbed a 13-year-old girl to death in the hallway of her Abbotsford high school in November 2016 claims he heard voices telling him to kill the victim and her friend.

Gabriel Klein testified Monday at a B.C. Supreme Court hearing which will determine whether he should be held not criminally responsible for his actions because of a mental disorder.

Under questioning from his lawyer, Klein said he was feeling suicidal on the morning of Nov. 1, 2016, when he encountered Reimer and her friend after walking into their school through a passage that connected to the Abbotsford library.

He claimed they didn't appear to him as two teenage girls.

"I saw two people that I describe as monsters. One lady looked like a witch with a deformed face. And the other had maggots crawling out of her back. She might have looked like a zombie," Klein said.

"A voice in my head was going 'kill, kill, kill' … It happened so quickly that I feel like the voice in my head was in control, and I wasn't."

'I wanted to commit suicide that day'

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes convicted Klein last March of second-degree murder in Reimer's death and aggravated assault in the stabbing of her friend.

The second-degree murder charge carries an automatic life sentence, with the main question being the length of time before parole eligibility.

A sentencing hearing was to have begun in September, but Klein exercised his right to raise the question of a possible mental disorder instead.

Gabriel Klein has been found guilty of second-degree murder in Letisha Reimer's killing. But a judge has to decide if he should be held criminally responsible. (CBC)

Klein said on Monday that he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. 

He spoke about having heard voices for a number of years and moving between Alberta, Vancouver and Abbotsford. He said the voices "tortured" him emotionally.

"It felt like I had one angel on one shoulder and one demon on the other shoulder," Klein said at one point.

In the days before stabbing Reimer, Klein said he slipped across the border into Washington State because he believed he was being pursued by the RCMP and the Hells Angels. He was caught by U.S. border guards and handed back to the Canada Border Services Agency.

Klein said he went to hospital in Abbotsford because he believed his brain and spine were swelling, but that no tests were done. According to testimony from his trial, health workers found him a place in a homeless shelter instead.

Klein claimed that he was angry and depressed after having sought help and being refused.

"I wanted to commit suicide that day," he said.

'I lost control of my emotions'

Video security camera caught Klein stealing rum from a liquor store and a knife from an outdoor activity outfitting store in the hours before the attack.

As he walked toward the school, witnesses reported seeing him screaming and yelling.

"I simply feel like I lost control of my emotions," Klein testified. He said he also tried stepping into traffic in his desire to kill himself.

Gabriel Klein, captured on surveillance video in November 2016, hours before stabbing two female students at a high school in Abbotsford, B.C. Klein is arguing that he should not be held criminally responsible. (IHIT/Twitter)

Klein spoke quickly as he talked about what happened inside the school, causing defence lawyer Martin Peters to ask him to slow down as they revisited the events in detail.

Klein said he had read reports about what happened, including the fact that he stabbed Reimer 13 times and her friend four times.

He described both victims as "things" but also called them "girls" at points.

"You've mentioned girls," Peters asked Klein. "At what point, in the school, were you aware of girls?"

"Right after I dropped the knife," Klein said. 

"That happened so quickly. I feel it was very short, and the rest of the incident happened so very fast. My delusions that I saw there, constantly changing in front of me. I saw it, it happened, then I stopped."

Questions about malingering

Under cross-examination, Klein said he was not upset that Holmes had found him guilty of second-degree murder.

"It is what it is," he said. "I'm not going to cry myself to sleep at night."

Crown prosecutor Rob Macgowan suggested Klein told psychiatrists that he had experienced similar delusions to those he described in relation to Reimer and her friend after using street drugs.

Klein insisted that he hadn't taken any drugs other than two to four shots of rum on the day of the offence. 

A judge can find someone not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder — or NCRMD — if they determine that an accused suffered from a mental disorder that renders them incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of their act or of knowing that it was wrong.

If a person is found NCRMD, they are referred to a provincial review board which oversees their psychiatric care in order to make a determination on if and when they can be released into the community.

Klein was tackled at the scene of the stabbing by high school staff and then taken into custody.

He later spent time at Surrey Memorial Hospital where he was interviewed by a psychiatrist who testified at trial that she feared Klein might be "malingering" — faking his mental illness.

Dr. Samantha Saffy claimed Klein told her he planned to argue that he was not criminally responsible.

Peters asked Klein about those statements but he said he didn't know why he had made them. Klein said he might have been motivated by "secondary gain," which he defined as wanting to get diagnosed for his problems so that he could get help.

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.

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