Hearing brings back horrors of son’s murder

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    By Darlene Casten

    The parent’s of murder victim Lawrence Hong talked about the heartbreak of the last four years at a disposition hearing for Matthew de Grood, who was found not criminally responsible for the murder of Hong and four others.

    On April 15, 2014 Hong was 27-years-old and one test away from graduating from urban studies at the University of Calgary when he was fatally stabbed to death while sleeping after a gathering of university students celebrating the end of the school year. His family immigrated from the Philippines in the 90s.

    Lorenzo Hong, Lawrence’s father, told the five-member Alberta Review Board panel, that he is trying to deal with his grief, but that it continues to be difficult.

    “So it is left for me to fend for myself, and I am doing a fairly good job, just breathing with enough air to stay afloat or above water,” he says.

    Lawrence’s murder continues to haunt his parents.

    “That hurt has permeated into the very fabric of our every day life,” Lorenzo says. “It has taken a huge toll on our relationships as to functioning in present day society, interaction with friends and acquaintances. It has done a huge damage to our finances and destroyed a wholesome happy family into a broken family. To summarize, we are broken, irreparable.”

    It was de Grood’s third review since being found not criminally responsible due to mental illness. His last disposition was held a year-and-a-half ago.

    At his Sept. 7 hearing, de Grood asked for supervised visits to malls, at first within walking distance of the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatric Centre (SAFPC), where he is being treated, and later on for up to four hours at malls further away. Hospital staff will supervise his mall visits.

    de Grood’s psychiatrist, Dr. Sergio Santana, testified he is a model patient, who is the first to co-facilitate a program for his peers and staff at SAFPC. Santana says de Grood’sschizophrenia has been in full remission since July 2014.

    Santana says the plan is to slowly allow de Grood to be in public for short periods of time and evaluate is ability to re-integrate into the community.

    “It is to see if he can tolerate direct exposure to the community,” Santana says.

    There was also a request to allow de Grood to access programs in Calgary at first for one hour and eventually for up to six hours a day.

    There was also some discussion of moving de Grood to a larger psychiatric hospital, but Santana and de Grood asked that he not be transferred to the Alberta Hospital in Edmonton to access more programing over the next year because it would limit the time with his family.

    The victim’s families oppose any freedom.

    “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,” the murder victim’s families wrote in a joint statement. “Regardless of his mental health now or in the future, we know the full extent of what he is capable of doing and the impact of what he did is something each of us lives with daily.”

    de Grood addressed the families and told them he was committed to managing his schizophrenia.

    “Five wonderful people lost their lives,” he says. “I am very sorry for what they endured. What happened was a terrible tragedy. I desperately wish it had never happened.”

    de Grood has taken an online psychology course and says he plans on using this experience to serve others.

    The Alberta Review Board will release a decision in the coming months.