Matthew de Grood 'clearly was psychotic' when he stabbed 5, psychiatrist testifies

Matthew de Grood "clearly was psychotic," not faking the state, and thought one of the five people he stabbed to death at a Calgary house party was a werewolf about to kill him, a forensic psychiatrist testified at his murder trial Wednesday.

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

Matthew de Grood, shown on the left on the first day of his murder trial on Monday, and on the right in happier days. Psychologist, Andrew Haag testified on Thursday that he diagnosed de Grood with schizophrenia after assessing him in the months after the killings. (Sketch by Janice Fletcher/Photo by Canadian Press)

Matthew de Grood "clearly was psychotic" and thought one of the five people he stabbed to death at a Calgary house party was a werewolf about to kill him, forensic psychiatrists testified at his murder trial Wednesday.

Dr. Alberto Choy and Dr. Lenka Zedkova — colleagues at the Alberta Hospital in Edmonton — testified that they believe de Grood should be found not criminally responsible on the five counts of first-degree murder he is facing.

  • Read the full psych report — it's embedded as a PDF at the end of this story

"He understood that he was stabbing and killing them," said Choy, who examined de Grood several months after the killings. "But he wasn't able to establish that what he was doing was morally wrong."

The 24-year-old admitted to stabbing ​Lawrence Hong, 27, Joshua Hunter, 23, Kaitlin Perras, 23, Zackariah Rathwell, 21, and Jordan Segura, 22, at a house party in the Brentwood neighbourhood in April 2014, but has pleaded not guilty. The goal of his lawyer is to have de Grood, once a promising university student heading to law school in the fall of 2014, deemed not criminally responsible (NCR).

Follow the trial live via our reporters in the courtroom:

In preparing their independent reports, Choy and Zedkova pored through de Grood's text messages, interviewed his parents and reviewed medical records from after his arrest, in addition to interviewing the now 24-year-old.

Zedkova — who spent a total of 14 hours with de Grood for her assessment — said on the night of the party de Grood feared he would be killed.

"He didn't feel any other emotions, really. Just fear."

She testified that at the party, de Grood was speaking with Rathwell about Buddhism. Rathwell brought up the subject of death and put his hand on de Grood's shoulder. 

De Grood perceived it as a threat and told Zedkova he heard a demonic voice he believed to be the sun god saying "kill them all before they kill you." 

"To him, it marked the beginning of the war," she said.

Choy was unable to put a label on de Grood's mental health condition, but Zedkova said he likely suffers from schizophrenia.

"He intended to kill these individuals ... because he believed his life was in danger," she said.

"My opinion is that he did not know what he was doing was morally wrong ... [He believed] it was self defence."

Facebook posts and ideas about werewolves, vampires and the end of the world all played into Choy's analysis of de Grood's mental health.

De Grood believed he was at war with vampires and werewolves and had to kill before he was killed, Choy said.

Choy also said de Grood was at times suicidal after the stabbings and worried staff members at the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatric Centre — the facility where he was held after his arrest — were trying to kill him.

Some of the questions put to Choy and Zedkova under cross-examination centred around de Grood's awareness of the fact that an NCR defence could be available to him.

Choy said it was initially concerning, but the "mountain of evidence" from different sources satisfied him that de Grood wasn't faking or exaggerating his psychotic symptoms and was "severely ill."

The NCR defence "was his preference," according to Zedkova who went on to say she felt de Grood was "simply being honest."

Unbiased medical professionals

Though Choy and Zedkova were called to testify by the defence, de Grood's lawyer, Allan Fay, told media outside the courtroom that it's important for the public to understand the experts who are testifying over the next two days are unbiased medical professionals.

"This isn't some story we've made up, this isn't some hired gun that I've paid a lot of money to come in to give this kind of testimony to give my client an easy out," said Fay.

"They're not hired by me. They're paid, ultimately, by the province. But regardless of who pays their bills, they're hired to give an unbiased opinion as to my client's condition."

Fay said he's aware the not criminally responsible defence doesn't sit well with some members of the public.

"It is very important that the public know that my client is not getting any special breaks because his father is a police officer. My client isn't trying to avail himself of a trumped-up defence. My client was mentally ill when this occurred to the point that he was incapable of appreciating the moral wrongness of what he was doing."

If de Grood is found NCR by the judge hearing the trial in Court of Queen's Bench, then he would be sent to a psychiatric facility rather than a prison.

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)

On Monday, court heard evidence 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.

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 had become increasingly concerned about their son's apparently deteriorating mental health, according to an agreed statement of facts.

The trial continues on Thursday with Fay set to call a psychologist who will be the final witness. Closing arguments are expected to be presented on Tuesday.

De Grood's defence team of Michael Miller, left, and Allan Fay speak to reporters outside of court on Wednesday. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

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