British Columbia

'I just heard her scream': Victim recounts day of deadly high school stabbing

A B.C. murder trial heard the surviving victim's account Wednesday of a deadly 2016 stabbing attack at a B.C. high school.

Teacher recalls trying to support 13-year-old stabbing victim with love even as pulse died away

Thirteen-year-old Letisha Reimer died on Nov. 1, 2016, after being stabbed at Abbotsford Senior Secondary school. (Ulrich Reimer/Facebook)

It was the day after Halloween and so she remembered being tired.

The teenager recalled many other things from that day — Nov. 1, 2016: going home for lunch; being teased for eating corn chips; sitting in the rotunda of Abbotsford Senior Secondary looking at her phone with her good friend and listening to Christian music.

Her friend, 13-year-old Letisha Reimer, sat facing the adjoining library.

"I just heard (Letisha) scream," the girl, who would also be stabbed, told police investigators.

"I don't remember any pain. I can't really describe that. I don't remember what he looked like ... very mean. I just remember running as fast as I could to the nearest classroom. I don't know how."

'I just remember her screaming'

The girl — known as EI — is the survivor of the stabbing attack which left Letisha Reimer dead.

Her videotaped account of the incident was played Wednesday at the trial of Gabriel Klein, the 23-year-old charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault in the tragedy.

Klein, who is now much heavier than he appeared on that day in 2016, sat in the prisoner's box looking down as EI's face filled the screen. He never looked up.

Gabriel Klein was caught on camera in the hours before Letisha Reimer was killed and another teenager was gravely wounded. He is on trial for second-degree murder and aggravated assault. (IHIT/Twitter)

The statement was taken in the days after Reimer died. EI wore her hair in plaits and tried to stay composed as she told her story under the gentle prodding of police.

"I just remember her screaming as I was running," EI said." [And then] laying on the ground, and teachers were surrounding me and students were crying — they didn't know what to do."

'I just remember he was really mean'

According to Crown counsel, EI suffered a collapsed right lung and lacerations to her liver. She told police her finger was "sliced open."

She suffered a cut to her right eyelid. She remembered having gauze placed on her eyes and being surrounded by police and teachers and students as they tried to comfort her and cover her with clothes and scarves.

The stabbings happened in the rotunda of Abbotsford Senior Secondary, which remained behind police tape in the days after the homicide investigation in the Fraser Valley community. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

She recalled being very cold and being transported to an air ambulance. She barely remembered the attacker.

"I just remember he was really mean," EI told the police. "I can't even describe it."

The fact that Klein — who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia — stabbed both girls is not in doubt. But he intends to argue that he should not be held criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder.

Before EI's video was played, the court heard testimony from two witnesses who had random encounters with Klein as he made his way to the school on the morning of the attacks. 

One said he was making unidentifiable groans, squeaks and noises. Another described the sounds as "bloodcurdling."

'Put the knife down'

EI sat in the public gallery as her video statement was played.

She also watched as fine arts teacher Ken Lachelt took the stand. Lachelt was in his classroom shortly after 2 p.m. on Nov. 1, 2016, when he heard screaming coming from the rotunda.

Makeshift memorials to Letisha Reimer appeared in the days after the 13-year-old girls's death. The school's principal and former vice-principal recounted the tragedy in court on Tuesday. (CBC)

He looked out to see a young man over top of a young female.

"His arms were jabbing in toward Letisha's body, and when I saw his arms it was almost like they were reaching under her backside," he said.

Lachelt removed his glasses and caught his breath as he spoke.

"I could tell he was pushing as hard as he could and struggling."

The teacher said he yelled at Klein to get off the girl.

"He stood up and that's when his arm pulled out from where he was, and that's when I could see the knife," Lachelt said.

"He just stood there for a second with the knife up and he looked directly at me. And then that's when I saw the knife and I said: 'Put the knife down.'"

'We could feel her pulse fade'

Lachelt said Klein tossed the knife aside and moved away. He said he approached Klein and yelled at others to call 911. 

Klein had his hands in the air.

"He wasn't wild eyed looking. He wasn't angry," Lachelt said. "But he was looking at me."

A memorial for Letisha Reimer, the 13-year-old student who was fatally stabbed at Abbotsford Senior Secondary. (Dennis Dossman/CBC)

Lachelt went to Letisha Reimer's side. She had her hands over her face and he asked her to move her hands so that he could see if she was OK.

"I could see her eyes were closed, but she was still struggling," he said. "I told her she's going to be OK."

By this time, Klein had been restrained by the principal and vice-principal, and Lachelt said he and other teachers tried their best to help the dying girl.

They tried to find the spots where she was bleeding. And to try to stop the bleeding from the many holes they could see.

"The only thing that mattered was what was happening with Letisha," Lachelt said.

"And we continued to talk to Letisha, to tell her she was going to be OK and we continued to give her as much love and support as we could, and we continued to try to find where the blood was coming from."

Lachelt's voice broke and he paused for about five seconds before picking up the story.

"But we could feel her breathing stop," he said.

"And we could feel her pulse fade."

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.