Matthew de Grood, who killed five people at a house party in 2014 while in a psychotic state, will be transferred to a secure Edmonton hospital where he can take escorted trips into the community and may even be allowed to live in a halfway house.
The new freedoms were approved by the Alberta Review Board, which held an annual hearing in September when members of de Grood’s treatment team testifed about his progress and risk to the community.
In its decision, the board ordered that de Grood — who has been described as a “model patient” — be transferred to Edmonton in order to ease his reintegration into the community because of the “toxic” nature of what he would likely experience in Calgary.
“Clearly the Alberta Review Board carefully considered my client’s progress in his treatment and how far he’s come and were satisfied that these recommendations would not in any way jeopardize public safety,” said de Grood’s lawyer Allan Fay.
On April 15, 2014, at a party celebrating the end of spring university classes, de Grood fatally stabbed five young people; Zackariah Rathwell, 21, Lawrence Hong, 27, Joshua Hunter, 23, Kaitlin Perras, 23, and Jordan Segura, 22.
Originally charged with five counts of first-degree murder, de Grood was found not criminally responsible (NCR) after a two-week trial in May 2016. The judge ruled he was in a psychotic state at the time of the killings — suffering schizophrenia symptoms — and could not understand that his actions were morally wrong.
The Alberta Review Board includes a judge, lawyer, forensic psychiatrist and a member of the public.
De Grood’s new treatment team at the Alberta Hospital Edmonton would have to first approve the additional privileges.
If the team agrees, de Grood will be allowed passes to go out into the community as long as he is supervised by a “responsible” adult. He could also live in an approved residence with 24-hour supervision.
The 27-year-old’s schizophrenia is in full remission, according to Dr. Sergio Santana, a forensic psychiatrist who leads de Grood’s treatment team.
The board wrote that “nothing can ever remove the shock and horror” of the killings or the impact on the families and noted “the anger and fear was palpable” in the hearing.
But it also found Santana had taken on a dual role. On the one hand, he is the head of de Grood’s treatment team, and on the other, he has been providing counselling to victims’ family members.
Calgary ‘closer to toxic’ for de Grood
Santana acknowledged that his recommended privileges in part reflected the victims’ concerns, and the board found an “irreconcilable conflict of interest” and noted “Santana’s duty to his patient is paramount.”
The families of the victims will almost certainly be furious with de Grood’s potential for expanded freedoms.
“We strongly defy anyone that suggests this risk is manageable or acceptable,” wrote the families last month in a joint statement. “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.”
Because de Grood would likely not find community support in Calgary — one dentist office cancelled his appointment for fear of backlash from the community if it was discovered it had treated de Grood — the board ordered de Grood be moved to Edmonton.
“There is clear evidence of unfounded fear within the community,” reads the report which says the “community support would be closer to toxic.”
Families want ‘high risk’ NCR designation
In September, de Grood apologized for what he’d done and told the review board he “will do everything I can to help the community heal,” and that he wants “to turn my life into service for other people.”
De Grood has said he heard what he thought was the voice of the devil before the attack and told a psychiatrist that he believed a war was about to begin, signalling the end of the world, when he arrived at the party.
Following the last hearing, the board allowed de Grood to take escorted outings around the grounds of the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre and trips around Calgary for medical appointments.
The victims’ families have expressed a wish for de Grood to be designated as “high-risk” NCR, which would mean he could go up to three years between hearings.
The families have previously said annual reviews of de Grood’s treatment derail their healing process.
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Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area. It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary, generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road). Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.
Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016, Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.
Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.
The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton. The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.