Woman offers sympathy for Greyhound killer Vince Li
A Manitoba woman whose father nearly killed her mother during a psychotic episode believes people with severe mental illness, like Greyhound bus killer Vince Li, can return to the community with proper treatment.
"I don't know Vince Li and I know the crime was horrific, but everyone's a victim there. Vince Li is every much a victim as anyone else," said Beverly Burton-Guindon, a nurse who was nine years old when her father stabbed her mother in an unprovoked attack.
Burton-Guindon's dad, Walter Diaczun, spent almost two years in mental heath hospitals, including Selkirk where Li currently resides.
After his release, Diaczun returned home where he lived with his wife for 36 years until his death.
Li was committed to Selkirk Mental Health Centre after being found not criminally responsible of beheading of a young man on a Greyhound bus in July 2008 near Portage La Prairie, Man.
A review board ruled on Thursday that Li can leave the mental hospital for supervised excursions that will initially be 30 minutes long.
Meanwhile, the federal government is considering changing the Criminal Code to put public safety ahead of the rights of people judged not criminally responsible for their actions.
Burton-Guindon was living in East St. Paul in early 1960s when she awoke to screams in the middle of the night.
Her father had stabbed her mother a number of times in the face, while she was lying in bed, then fled to the basement.
Diaczun was found to be mentally ill but after treatment came back to live with the family.
Burton-Guindon admits for the first two years she was afraid of the man living in their home.
"When we went to bed I pushed the dresser in front of the bedroom door and I slept with a pair of scissors under my pillow," she said.
Later, she came to love and trust her father after realizing that he was no longer the same person who had stabbed her mother.
At the same time, she was exposed at an early age to the public prejudice towards the mentally ill.
Immediate friends and family were understanding but "going to school, the first thing a new person would say was 'is it true that your father is crazy and tried to kill your mother?'"
Later she found the same ignorance and misunderstanding even among health care workers.
"I've heard people who work for the WRHA [Winnipeg Regional Health Authority] in high positions make comments that are really out there. I've heard doctors refer to patients as 'oh, they're just crazy.'
"This is mental illness and to label it as crazy is so wrong. These people are suffering every bit as if they have physical pain."