The man charged with the 2016 fatal stabbing at Abbotsford Senior Secondary was placed in seclusion at a psychiatric hospital last week after he heard voices telling him to rape a fellow patient.
Gabriel Klein, 23, is charged with second-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of 13-year-old Letisha Reimer at Abbotsford Senior Secondary on Nov. 1, 2016. He is also charged with the aggravated assault of Reimer’s friend (who cannot be named due to a publication ban), who was 14 at the time of the attack.
Klein was scheduled to go to trial in May, but a hearing is being held this week to find whether Klein is fit to stand trial, after his lawyer drew attention to his client’s worrisome mental state.
Wednesday’s hearing in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster was a “fact-finding” process that attempted to answer the question of whether Klein has the ability to understand and follow the proceedings and/or is able to communicate and give direction to his lawyer.
A finding of “not fit to stand trial” is not permanent; legal proceedings could restart if and when Klein’s mental health improves.
Dr. Marcel Hediger, who treats Klein at the Colony Farm Forensic Psychiatric Hospital where Klein has been held off and on since his arrest, testified Wednesday that Klein is schizophrenic, “intensely paranoid,” hears voices on a daily basis and experiences hallucinations.
“Mr. Klein is currently actively psychotic,” Hediger said.
Klein, who remained calm throughout Wednesday’s proceedings, has been taken from pre-trial custody to the hospital four separate times, the court heard. He has been at Colony Farm since last being admitted there in August 2017.
Hediger said he conducted two “fitness” assessments of Klein – one last week and one this week – and Klein understood his charges, could describe the court proceedings and understood that he could be sentenced.
Klein also said he had killed someone and seriously injured another person, but they did not discuss the specifics, Hediger said.
The doctor said that the two assessements were conducted in calm circumstances, but in stressful situation, Klein’s symptoms – and the risk of violence – can intensify. He quantified his concerns about Klein’s behaviour as “high level.”
Hediger said Klein was placed in seclusion last week after he reported hearing voices telling him to rape and harm a fellow patient. He said Klein also believes he is being monitored by the CIA, including through security cameras in his hospital unit.
During a court appearance last week, Klein heard voices to such an extent that he couldn’t focus on the proceedings, Hediger said. He said Klein’s mental state appears to have deteriorated in the last week or two.
“His mental state is extremely fragile,” he said.
Hediger said it doesn’t appear Klein is faking or exaggerating his symptoms. Klein is on three different medications, but none lead Hediger to believe the psychosis is “remotely treated.”
Klein is also on a new medication regimen that Hediger said could impact his ability to follow the court proceedings.
“I do think Mr. Klein will have difficulty in sustaining his ability to closely follow trial proceedings,” Hediger said.
If the trial proceeds, it is expected to take one to two months.
The hearing is set to continue Thursday morning.
– With files by Tyler Olsen