A British Columbia father found not criminally responsible for killing his three children won’t be able to apply for permission to leave the psychiatric hospital he now calls home, a provincial review board said.
Allan Schoenborn had applied for escorted absences, nearly six years after he killed his children at their home in Merritt, B.C. His treatment team at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, in Port Coquitlam east of Vancouver, told a B.C. Review Board hearing on Wednesday that Mr. Schoenborn posed too great a risk to public safety to be let out.
Dave Teixeira, who speaks for the family of Schoenborn’s ex-wife, Darcie Clarke, confirmed the board’s decision roughly two hours after the hearing wrapped up.
“They’ve made a decision – and we’re very glad to hear it – that Allan Schoenborn will be kept in custody for another year,” Mr. Teixeira said in an interview. “The word [from the family] is ‘relief.’ I can’t say they’re overjoyed, because there are three young children who will never see the light of day again because of Allan Schoenborn’s actions.”
Schoenborn stabbed his daughter Kaitlynne, 10, and then smothered his sons, eight-year-old Max and five-year-old Cordon, at their home in Merritt in April, 2008, leaving their bodies to be found by their mother, Darcie Clarke. He fled, only to be found more than a week later dehydrated in the woods nearby.
A judge later concluded he was likely suffering from a psychotic state during the murders and was therefore not criminally responsible due to mental disorder. He has spent the subsequent years at a forensic hospital in Port Coquitlam, east of Vancouver, where his case is reviewed annually.
Mr. Schoenborn addressed the review board himself. “I think I’ve been in the hospital now for four years,” he said. “I’d like the opportunity to go outside of the gate and maybe have a swim or a cup of coffee.”
Under questioning by board members, Mr. Schoenborn said he has been “waiting patiently” for those four years. “I think if it’s not now, it’ll be never,” he said, dressed in jeans and a brown button-up shirt over a red T-shirt. “…. I’ve done the work – I’ve done anger management, I’ve done the relapse prevention.”
Mr. Schoenborn, who was 40 when he killed his children, is unrecognizable from the skeletal fugitive whose face was broadcast by police during a week-long manhunt. The unruly, matted hair in his police mug shot has been cropped short. He has gained a significant amount of weight, and the board members were told he spends about 16 hours a day in his room, 12 of them sleeping.
The man’s treatment team at the hospital disagreed with Schoenborn’s assessment that he is ready to venture outside. “There can be no doubt that Mr. Schoenborn remains a significant threat to public safety,” Deborah Lovett, the lawyer for the hospital’s director, told the board.
Schoenborn suffers from delusional disorder, substance abuse and paranoia. Marcel Hediger, his treating psychiatrist, told board members Mr. Schoenborn hasn’t suffered delusional symptoms or been involved in any significant violent incidents in the past three years.
Dr. Hediger said anger management has been the focus of treatment and Mr. Schoenborn has been involved in verbal altercations with staff. He has little insight into what triggers his angry outbursts, including what triggered the killings, Dr. Hediger said.
Just days before the hearing, Mr. Schoenborn spent a night in isolation after lashing out verbally at a nurse.
Given that these incidents occurred in the low-stress, highly managed environment of the hospital, Hediger said he is concerned about what could happen if Schoenborn is allowed into the unpredictable environment of the outside world.
Leanne Lee, a psychiatric nurse and Schoenborn’s case manager, said Schoenborn has regular telephone contact with his mother, who has come to visit him several times. He has no contact with his brother or sister.
Last year, the board recommended Schoenborn be transferred to Manitoba, where his mother lives, as he requested. The B.C. criminal justice branch declined to do so.
The case fuelled public outrage in 2011 after the review board recommended Schoenborn be allowed supervised absences in the community. After it was revealed the children’s mother lived in Port Coquitlam, Schoenborn withdrew his request.
Schoenborn’s case also sparked proposed changes to the federal law that include a new “high-risk” designation for offenders deemed not criminally responsible. The revisions would allow such offenders hearings every three years, rather than every year.
Darcie Clarke did not attend the hearing but her brother, Mike Clarke, and her cousin, Stacy Galt, were there. Both said after the hearing that they hope the proposal becomes law this year.
“We just hope that he would be locked up forever,” Clarke said.
Three years would give his sister and his family time to heal, he said.
“It would give Al chance to heal, maybe get proper treatment, because anybody who kills three children like that cannot be healed within four years on a couple of pills.”
The review board reserved its decision on Schoenborn’s request.