Matthew de Grood, who killed 5 at Calgary party, undergoes 1st not criminally responsible hearing

Families of five young people stabbed to death at a Calgary house party in 2014 are once again trying to put into words the agony of their losses as they attend a public review board hearing for Matthew de Grood, who was found not criminally responsible for the killings.

Lawrence Hong, Joshua Hunter, Kaitlin Perras, Zackariah Rathwell, Jordan Segura killed at house party

Zackariah Rathwell, 21, Lawrence Hong, 27, Kaitlin Perras, 23, ​Jordan Segura, 22, and Joshua Hunter, 23, died after Matthew de Grood stabbed them at a party in Calgary's Brentwood community in 2014. (Facebook)

UPDATE: CBC News is not able to bring you updated details on what transpired during the Matthew de Grood hearing on Tuesday because the judge imposed an interim publication ban on all of the evidence being presented. Arguments are to be heard Wednesday on whether the publication ban should be lifted and a lawyer for the CBC will oppose the ban at that time. If the ban is lifted, we will report further details on what transpired during the hearing.

The families of five young people who were stabbed to death at a house party in 2014 will once again attempt to put into words the agony of their losses, when they attend a public review board hearing this week for Matthew de Grood.

De Grood's "unusual" public review board hearing begins today and wraps up Wednesday. In May, the 24-year-old was found not criminally responsible (NCR) for the deaths.

"This hearing is unusual on a number of levels," said forensic psychologist Dr. Patrick Baillie. "First, it's scheduled over two days, whereas typically the board does six to eight hearings or more in a single day."

"Second, it's at the courthouse whereas most of the hearings are done in a hospital setting — it's in the ceremonial courtroom ... so this is a very public hearing and is taking significantly longer time than a typical hearing does."

The April 2014 attack at the party to celebrate the end of university classes claimed the lives of:

  • Lawrence Hong, 27.
  • Joshua Hunter, 23.
  • Kaitlin Perras, 23.
  • Zackariah Rathwell, 21.
  • Jordan Segura, 22.

The NCR designation indicates de Grood was suffering a psychotic break at the time of the killings— schizophrenia symptoms— and could not understand that his actions were morally wrong.

De Grood was sent to a secure psychiatric facility for treatment rather than a prison. This will be the first of annual reviews conducted by a board — two judges, psychiatrists and community members.

Submissions will also be made by psychiatrists and others who work with and treat de Grood at the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre.

"The board wants to look at how has he been doing in treatment and hear from various professionals who have been working with Matthew," said Baillie.

They will recommend whether de Grood should be granted any privileges like escorted outings, based on public safety, de Grood's mental condition and the possibility of reintegration. 

The hearing is being held in the ceremonial courtroom at the Calgary Courts Centre. It is designed to hold up to 400 people for things like citizenship ceremonies and jury selection, and was chosen because during de Grood's murder trial, three courtrooms were jammed with observers.

De Grood, shown on the right on the first day of his murder trial earlier this year, and on the left some time before the deadly stabbings. (Photo by Canadian Press/Sketch by Janice Fletcher)

For the victims' families, this is their new reality — the first of the annual review board hearings where they will be given the opportunity to deliver victim impact statements.

"These families all have a life sentence now," Kaitlin's father Gregg Perras said after de Grood was found NCR.

"Our life sentence is to every year, go to the mental health review board and try to make sure that this dangerous offender never gets out and has a chance to hurt anyone else."

There is a chance Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg will seek a high-risk NCR designation in which case de Grood could go up to three years between hearings.

Throughout the Court of Queen's Bench murder trial in May, Justice Eric Maklin heard evidence that de Grood believed he was at war with vampires and werewolves, and had to kill before he was killed.

Court also heard that de Grood sent ominous messages in the hours before the killings and told friends at the party that he thought the end of the world was imminent.

At the party, de Grood talked about conspiracy theories, hidden meanings in songs and patterns in the Matrix movies, and spoke of U.S. President Barack Obama being "the Antichrist."

NCR statistics

De Grood's father, a 30-year veteran of the Calgary Police Service, considered swearing a mental health warrant in the days before the killings as he and his wife became increasingly concerned about their son's apparently deteriorating mental health, according to an agreed statement of facts read into the court record.

Nationally, about 1 out of 1,000 criminal cases are found to be NCR, according to Baillie. Of those, fewer than 10 per cent are for serious personal violence. 

In Alberta, between April 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014, 19 people were found to be not criminally responsible. In the following 12 months, another 19 people were deemed NCR. 

Statistics from Alberta Justice show there are approximately 60,000 criminal arrests in the province each year.

The board ultimately has three options:

  • Continued detention of de Grood.
  • Conditional discharge.
  • Absolute discharge.