British Columbia

B.C. man accused of killing teen claimed he saw 'monsters'

A man accused of murdering a 13-year-old girl at an Abbotsford high school allegedly told a psychiatrist he heard voices saying "kill, kill, kill" before attacking the teenager and her friend with a knife.

Psychiatrist said she was concerned Gabriel Klein might be 'malingering' to support defence

Gabriel Klein, captured on camera at an undisclosed location in November 2016, hours before allegedly stabbing two female students at a high school in Abbotsford, B.C. Klein faces charges of second-degree murder and aggravated assault. (IHIT/Twitter)

A man accused of murdering a 13-year-old girl in the hallway of an Abbotsford high school in November 2016 allegedly told a psychiatrist that he heard voices saying "kill, kill, kill" before stabbing the teenager.

Dr. Samantha Saffy testified in B.C. Supreme Court Tuesday that Gabriel Klein told her he approached Letisha Reimer and her friend with a knife after one of the girls appeared to him as a "grey owl" and the other as a "shape shifting witch."

"He squinted his eyes and saw what he thought were monsters," Saffy testified at Klein's second-degree murder trial.

"And then [he] got up and walked toward these creatures or monsters."

Concerns about 'malingering'

Klein has admitted to stabbing both girls but plans to argue that he should be held not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder.

He has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Saffy's testimony touched on the question that will ultimately be at the heart of the trial overseen by Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes.

Letisha Reimer, 13, died after being stabbed at a school in Abbotsford, B.C. Gabriel Klein is accused of second degree murder but plans to argue that he should not be held criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder. (Ulrich Reimer/Facebook)

In order to be declared not criminally responsible, a defendant has to prove that they were either unaware of their actions or unable to distinguish right from wrong.

The psychiatrist said Klein told her he planned to argue that he was "NCR" and mentioned the defence several times.

"I wondered if Mr. Klein was specifically seeking a mental health diagnosis in order to support an NCR defence," Saffy said.

She also said she was concerned he might be "malingering" — exaggerating or feigning illness for personal gain — because of inconsistencies in his statements and descriptions of his symptoms and mental health history.

Prior attempt to get help

Saffy was on call at Surrey Memorial Hospital on the night of Nov. 4, 2016 — three days after Klein was arrested at the scene of Letisha Reimer's death.

He was committed to the hospital's psychiatric ward after concerns were raised about self-harming behaviour that included head-banging after his arrest.

Under cross-examination, Saffy said she wondered why Klein wasn't being held in a forensic hospital instead.

Gabriel Klein was taken to the psychiatric ward at Surrey Memorial Hospital after his arrest because of concerns about behaviour that included head-banging. (CBC)

He continued thrashing while under restraints in the hospital, where he was kept under constant guard by two corrections officers.

At that point, Klein was also mute. He hadn't said a word in four days — since the moment he was detained by staff at the high school.

Saffy said he was administered an anti-anxiety drug and suddenly indicated to nurses that he wanted to speak.

He started by asking whether he could be put in protective custody because "he was concerned that people may want to harm him."

The psychiatrist said Klein claimed he had sought "mental health assistance" the week before the stabbings, going to Abbotsford Regional Hospital with what he claimed were concerns about chicken feces on his hands.

Saffy said Klein also described having had "shaking episodes" which would typically come from out of the blue.

'They were not monsters but girls'

On the day of the attacks, Klein claimed to have stolen some liquor but not enough to get drunk.

He also stole a knife.

"He then had some thoughts about what he would do with the knife," Saffy said.

"He thought of perhaps stabbing a police officer or threatening a police officer so that they could shoot him and he could claim suicide by cop."

Instead, he went to the Abbotsford library, which at that point allowed direct access to the Abbotsford Senior Secondary School rotunda. He wanted to use the computer.

Makeshift memorials appeared at Abbotsford Senior Secondary in the days after the death of 13-year-old Letisha Reimer. Gabriel Klein is on trial for second-degree murder in her death. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

But when Reimer and her friend allegedly appeared to him as monsters, Klein told Saffy, he approached them.

"Then [he] stabbed at the first girl over and over again and then moved to the second girl," the psychiatrist testified.

"I recall him saying that she knocked the knife out of his hand and he was surprised at that point and then realized that they were not monsters but girls."

She said Klein said he had time to pick up the knife and to continue stabbing the second girl.

"He said he had time to kill her, but he didn't," she said. "He said he allowed himself to be tackled by security or a bystander."

'I question whether the symptoms are valid'

The psychiatrist described Klein's demeanour as "slippery."

She said he was evasive on a number of fronts, saying at first that he had heard voices telling him to "kill, kill, kill" but later claiming he had not heard voices.

He questioned whether or not someone might have laced his cannabis with methamphetamine, resulting in psychosis.

But he later admitted that it "wasn't the drugs that caused him to stab the girls."

Saffy said his descriptions of shaking episodes also did not fit with any known psychiatric or neurological condition, occurring without loss of consciousness, bladder control or any apparent confusion afterwards.

And she said the fact that Klein walked toward what he claimed were hallucinations of monsters was also very unusual, as was his claim that he suddenly realized that Reimer and her friend were actually girls in the middle of the attack.

"When we're looking at ​​​​​​formulating an opinion on a potential diagnosis, we're looking for some sort of consistency," Saffy said.

"When I hear inconsistent answers, I question whether the symptoms are valid. Whether they're true or whether they're fabricated."

Saffy was asked on cross-examination whether or not she would defer to a diagnosis of schizophrenia from a forensic psychiatrist taken as part of a much more in-depth survey.

"That's a tough question," she replied. "All I know is what I saw on that day."

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.