by Darlene Casten
A Filipino couple who’s son was one of five young people stabbed to death at a get-together at the end of the university year five years ago say the justice system continues to fail them as their son’s killer gained more freedoms last month.
Matthew de Grood was found not criminally responsible for the deaths on account of a mental disorder of Zackariah Rathwell, 21, Jordan Segura, 22, Josh Hunter, 23, Kaitlin Perras, 23 and Lawrence Hong, 27.
Hong’s parents, Marlene and Lawrence, travelled to Edmonton to Edmonton Sept. 17 to read a victim impact statement at de Grood’s latest review board hearing.
“I cannot even sit after I finish my impact statement,” recalls Marlene. “I have to leave. Actually I broke down.”
Despite the emotional toll, the Hong’s say they feel compelled to attend de Grood’s hearings.
“That’s the only time they could hear our feedback or how we feel,” says Marlene. “Other than that we don’t have much voice.”
However, the Hongs say their words seem to be having little impact. Following de Grood’s latest hearing the board agreed with his treatment team’s recommendation for 24-hour unsupervised passes. Last year de Grood was moved from the Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre to the Alberta Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Edmonton.
The Hongs say it is unlikely de Grood will be in Calgary while on unsupervised passes, but say they are worried for others that may come in contact with him.
“Personally it doesn’t affect us, but we don’t want other people to be in the shoes that we are in,” says Lorenzo.
Marlene adds that the treatment team determined if de Grood does relapse, it will be “unexpected, rapid, extreme and with multiple victims”.
The Hongs say that despite their concerns, they expect that de Grood will soon be released into a halfway home and then given full release.
“It seems he is on fast track to be released,” says Lorenzo. “After a year or two he will be on full release – no supervision or anything”
Marlene and Lorenzo say they feel people who are found not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder, should be supervised for the rest of their lives in a hospital.
“The medication he is getting improved his mental health, and that is a good thing,” she explains. “But bottom line it is our system. Our health system makes people well and that is not our objective.”
Marlene says many people are shocked to hear that de Grood is now able to leave the psychiatric hospital on his own. She says it shows that most Canadians don’t understand the justice system’s provisions for people found not criminally responsible.
“He shouldn’t be in an environment where he can hurt other people,” says Lorenzo.