Nfld. & Labrador

Graham Veitch admits to killing David Collins, but pleads not guilty

The trial for a man accused of killing his mother's partner got underway Monday morning in St. John's.

Veitch, 21, has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him

Graham Veitch is accused of killing his mother's partner, David Collins, in 2016. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Graham Veitch, who is charged with second-degree murder in the death of his mother's partner, pleaded not guilty in a St. John's court Monday, though an agreed statement of facts makes clear the 21-year-old man killed David Collins in 2016.

Veitch's lawyers, Mark Gruchy and Jason Edwards, told CBC News they are pursuing what is described in the Criminal Code of Canada as a defence of mental disorder. In other words, they intend to prove Veitch is not criminally responsible for his actions.

A lengthy statement of agreed facts, signed by Veitch, his lawyers and the Crown detailed Collins's gruesome death on Dec. 18, 2016. It also described Veitch's mental health issues, including a diagnosis of schizophrenia following bizarre behaviour and paranoia.

The statement, read into the record by Crown attorney Shawn Patten in Supreme Court, describes how Veitch, who was 18 at the time, sat down to supper with his mother, Joan Veitch, and her partner, Collins, 55, around 6:30 p.m. at their house on Cadigan's Road.

After the meal ended, Collins sat down on a chair in the living room while Joan Veitch washed the dishes and Graham Veitch went upstairs with a sleeping pill, which he said he'd take when he got to his room.

Joan Veitch sat down on the couch across from Collins and a few moments later, according to her sworn statement to police, her son stomped down the stairs wielding a hammer, approached Collins from behind and hit him several times in the head.

"It was so quick he didn't even get a chance to put his hands up," Joan Veitch told police.

When she tried to stop her son, Joan Veitch told officers, he turned to her and growled, while holding the hammer up as if he'd hit her with it.

Brian Ozon, Joan's son and Graham's brother, was in the attached garage when the attack happened. He heard his mother screaming his name before she bounded into the garage to explain what happened.

Ozon went with her back into the house, where — as he told police — Graham was still holding the hammer and had a "crazy look in his eyes."

Mother and son retreated to the garage and called 911. Then, Graham Veitch left the house, got into Collins's Chevrolet Cruze and drove off.

Veitch, 21, speaks to his lawyer, Mark Gruchy, on the first day of his trial for second-degree murder in St. John's. (Bailey White/CBC)

As they waited for paramedics, Joan Veitch, a nurse, tried to treat her partner's massive injuries. A coroner's report later found Collins has been struck between 10 and 12 times in the head and face.

Investigators said his skull was smashed, leaving blood and brain matter splattered on the floor.

Collins was still breathing. He was not pronounced dead until nearly 4 a.m.

Police chase

While Joan Veitch and Ozon gave statements to police, Graham Veitch was driving around St. John's and Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove. He took calls from a crisis negotiator on his cellphone but said he wasn't ready to turn himself in.

More than once, police spotted his car and pursued him, but gave up the chase in wet conditions and once when Veitch allegedly passed a car on a solid line.

Veitch's started with him being re-arraigned on a charge of second-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty. (Bailey White/CBC)

Eventually, the young man returned to his family home, where police had blocked the road. He drove slowly into a constable who had a gun drawn, and finally smashed into an RNC truck head-on, ending the chase.

At the RNC station later that night, Graham Veitch admitted to the killing, but insisted he had no choice.

"Basically, I did what I had to do," he told police.

Veitch's lawyers intend to prove he is not criminally responsible for killing Collins. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

It's an assertion his mother said makes no sense. Graham Veitch previously told her he felt threatened by Collins, but Joan Veitch described her partner as "very passive" and called her son's claim unfounded.

"I couldn't take it anymore," Graham Veitch told police.

"It was just f--king brutal," he said of the hammer attack, "I knew he was dead."

First-degree charge dropped

Veitch was initially charged with first-degree murder, but Crown attorney Shawn Patten told CBC News on Monday the facts better supported a charge of second-degree murder. Veitch was re-arraigned on the new charge before the statement of facts was read into the record.

Defence lawyer Mark Gruchy said the coming days will see more evidence about Veitch's state of mind, and whether he can be held responsible for an attack he himself described as brutal.

The statement of facts drew on information from family members, employers and an ex-girlfriend to build a picture of Veitch's state of mind.

He is described as withdrawn, depressed and antisocial. He had trouble holding down jobs at Boston Pizza and Wingin' It and made strange mistakes in the kitchen, like using vastly more oil or pepper than a recipe called for.

Veitch's ex-girlfriend told police about how she once found him on all fours smashing his head into the floor and the wall.

After Collins's death, Veitch was admitted to the Waterford psychiatric hospital in St. John's. From there he called his ex-girlfriend and told her she wasn't safe.

At the hospital, Veitch displayed strange behaviour, like eating paint chips and drinking toilet water.

He described hearing voices and was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

In her statement to police, Joan Veitch said she and Collins had previously discussed her son's mental health, but didn't realize how serious the situation was.

"Graham is a lot sicker than I thought he was, obviously."

The trial continues on Tuesday. Graham Veitch is also charged with assaulting his mother, assaulting a police officer, stealing a car and evading police. He has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

A charge of assaulting his brother, Brian Ozon, was withdrawn at an earlier appearance.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador