Calgary

Calgary house party killer Matthew de Grood to be transferred to Edmonton for reintegration into community

Matthew de Grood, who killed five people at a house party in 2014, will be transferred to Edmonton where he will be allowed escorted trips into the community and may even be allowed to live in a halfway house.

Victim's father denounces 'nonsense' review process

Matthew de Grood, shown on the right on the first day of his murder trial, and on the left some time before the deadly stabbings. De Grood will be transferred to Edmonton, where his reintegration into the community will begin. (Photo by Canadian Press/Sketch by Janice Fletcher)

Matthew de Grood, who killed five people at a Calgary house party in 2014 while in a psychotic state, will be transferred to a secure Edmonton hospital where he can take escorted trips into the community and may even be allowed to live in a halfway house.

The new freedoms were approved by the Alberta Review Board, which held an annual hearing in September when members of de Grood's treatment team testified about his progress and risk to the community.

In its decision, the board ordered that de Grood — who has been described as a "model patient" — be transferred to Edmonton in order to ease his reintegration into the community because of the "toxic" nature of what he would likely experience in Calgary.

De Grood fatally stabbed five young people; Zackariah Rathwell, 21, Lawrence Hong, 27, Joshua Hunter, 23, Kaitlin Perras, 23, and Jordan Segura, 22, on April 15, 2014, at a party celebrating the end of spring university classes. 

Originally charged with five counts of first-degree murder, de Grood was found not criminally responsible (NCR) after a two-week trial in May 2016. The judge ruled he was in a psychotic state at the time of the killings — suffering schizophrenia symptoms — and could not understand that his actions were morally wrong. 

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

'Nonsense'

Hunter's father, Barclay, says the board's decision did not come as a surprise, and that he feels more resigned than outraged.

He says the review board process is "nonsense" and feels no matter what the families say during the annual hearings, they bear no weight on the outcome.

"Me going up and sharing my story of grief and the tragedy of losing my son doesn't, in my opinion, have any impact on what the review board is going to do," he said.

He also feels the approach for treating NCR patients and working toward their eventual reintegration no matter what their past acts — everything from assault to quintuple killings —  is problematic.

"I really question the one-size-fits-all approach with this given the extreme nature of what he did," said Hunter.

Schizophrenia in 'full remission'

De Grood's new treatment team at the Alberta Hospital Edmonton must approve the additional privileges.

If the team agrees, de Grood will be allowed passes to go out into the community as long as he is supervised by a "responsible" adult. He could also live in an approved residence with 24-hour supervision. 

"Clearly the Alberta Review Board carefully considered my client's progress in his treatment and how far he's come and were satisfied that these recommendations would not in any way jeopardize public safety," said de Grood's lawyer Allan Fay. 

The board includes a judge, lawyer, forensic psychiatrist and a member of the public.

Forensic psychologist Dr. Patrick Baillie says the board's decision to move de Grood to Edmonton makes sense.

"You don't want to have a situation where members of the victims' families are bumping into him when he's on a community outing," said Baillie. "That would be particularly distressing for them, and probably for Matthew as well."

Baillie also says it is unlikely de Grood's new freedoms will be available any time soon: "My understanding is that we're still looking at a very long-term plan for reintegration."

The 27-year-old's schizophrenia is in full remission, according to Dr. Sergio Santana, a forensic psychiatrist who leads de Grood's treatment team.

The board wrote that "nothing can ever remove the shock and horror" of the killings or the impact on the families and noted "the anger and fear was palpable" in the hearing.

But it also found Santana had taken on a dual role. On the one hand, he is the head of de Grood's treatment team, and on the other, he has been providing counselling to victims' family members. 

Calgary 'closer to toxic' for de Grood

Santana acknowledged that his recommended privileges in part reflected the victims' concerns, and the board found an "irreconcilable conflict of interest" and noted "Santana's duty to his patient is paramount."

The families of the victims will almost certainly be furious with de Grood's potential for expanded freedoms. 

"We strongly defy anyone that suggests this risk is manageable or acceptable," wrote the families last month in a joint statement. "The absolute evil and heinous nature of the crime he committed can not be overstated and the prospect of this person being re-integrated into our community is beyond comprehension."

Because de Grood would likely not find community support in Calgary — one dentist office cancelled his appointment for fear of backlash from the community if it was discovered it had treated de Grood — the board ordered de Grood be moved to Edmonton.

"There is clear evidence of unfounded fear within the community," reads the report which says the "community support would be closer to toxic."

Families want 'high risk' NCR designation

In September, de Grood apologized for what he'd done and told the review board he "will do everything I can to help the community heal," and that he wants "to turn my life into service for other people."

De Grood has said he heard what he thought was the voice of the devil before the attack and told a psychiatrist that he believed a war was about to begin, signalling the end of the world, when he arrived at the party.

Following the last hearing, the board allowed de Grood to take escorted outings around the grounds of the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre and trips around Calgary for medical appointments.

The victims' families have expressed a wish for de Grood to be designated as "high-risk" NCR, which would mean he could go up to three years between hearings.

The families have previously said annual reviews of de Grood's treatment derail their healing process.

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.