The man facing five murder charges in Calgary’s worst mass killing was held at a forensic psychiatric facility on Wednesday to determine whether he was fit to navigate the legal system, although his lawyer said he was lucid and able to communicate.
As the police investigated the deaths at a northwest Calgary home, new details emerged about the young victims, each seemingly excited to be pursing their career paths, from music, to urban planning to religious study.
Matthew de Grood, a 22-year-old University of Calgary student and son of a senior police official, is accused of walking into a house party early Tuesday, grabbing a large kitchen knife, and going on a stabbing rampage.
Police and people who know Mr. de Grood say he was friendly, unassuming, and showed no signs that he was capable of such violence, adding to the bewildering nature of the crimes that have sunk a city into sadness.
His lawyer, Allan Fay, met with him briefly on Wednesday at the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre, where criminal suspects are detained to determine whether they are fit for legal proceedings.
“He was able to carry on a conversation. He made sense, but seemed to be very overwhelmed by the whole process, which is understandable,” Mr. Fay said. “I guess for someone in custody facing five counts of first-degree murder, he’s doing about as well as you would hope.”
He met his client for about 20 minutes, a visit limited by the lack of privacy afforded by the psychiatric facility. He hopes to meet him again on the weekend to prepare for his first court appearance, expected Tuesday.
Police said they had not concluded the autopsies yet as planned, and so they had yet to formally release the victims’ names. However, tributes piled up from friends and acquaintances.
Zackariah Rathwell, 23, and Josh Hunter, 22, played in a band called Zackariah and The Prophets, which had released a CD a few nights before they were killed.
Jordan Segura, 23, was studying religion and history at the University of Calgary. Lawrence Hong 27, was an urban-studies student at the U of C. Kaiti Perras, 23, was an English student at Mount Royal University and an avid dancer who also worked at an Anthropologie store at Calgary’s Chinook Centre mall.
As snow fell near the home that was the scene of the carnage a day earlier, a makeshift memorial grew as investigators collected evidence. Mourners, both young and old, piled flowers with handwritten notes at the edge of the police tape.
“We love you Kaiti. You are now dancing with angels. You will be missed forever. Rest peacefully,” one note said above a photo of a group of girls posing for a dance photo. A pink, worn, ballet slipper with “RIP” written near the toe sat on top of the bouquet.
“She was destined to do great things. She was the kindest person. We looked up to her so much. We danced with her ever since we were little. We have so many good memories,” Kaiti’s friend, Kaitlyn Hall, told CTV.
Norma Corraini lives around the corner. She brought flowers and cried while talking about the victims, accused, and their parents.
”I just feel guilty because I’m so glad it wasn’t my son,” she said tearfully. “I feel guilty I’m happy it wasn’t my boy.”
Mr. de Grood has been described by those who know him as quiet and friendly, having just completed undergraduate studies at the U of C. He was accepted at law school in the autumn. A photograph from 2013 shows him proudly displaying a medal for completing a partial marathon.
“No indications of past problems with the law or otherwise, a university student from a good family – that’s, of course, what makes this case even more bizarre,” Mr. Fay said.
Ted Slone, a teaching assistant at the U of C, said his interactions with Mr. Grood were always related to class work. “I was very shocked to hear he was the suspect, as I’m sure you can gather from the other sources who knew him that he was indeed regarded as quiet and unassuming but friendly and smart,” Mr. Slone said.
According to police, Mr. de Grood was invited to the party. He joined after finishing work at a Canada Safeway supermarket not far away.
Staff at the Safeway store were quick to turn away from any question on Wednesday. “No comment,” one bakery employee said before any questions were even posed. The store’s manager declined to comment on whether Mr. de Grood was an employee.
Two Crown prosecutors from Edmonton has been assigned to the case, standard practice when a member of the Calgary Police Service is involved, Alberta’s justice ministry said.
Inspector Douglas de Grood is a 33-year member of the force. According to a recent biography on the Alberta Community Crime Prevention Association website, he was in charge of policy development and was once a district commander.
There was no indication that another police agency, such as the RCMP, would take over the investigation, however. One legal expert said it should be under consideration.
“I think it would probably be a good idea [for outside authorities to take over the case] – if only, at the very least, to maintain the perception of impartiality,” said Chris Sherrin, an associate law professor at the University of Western Ontario.
Mr. Fay said it was difficult for him to comment on that.
“Obviously I have a concern that certain people might conclude that he is being given a special break because he is a police officer’s son, or the contrary – that he’s being dealt with more harshly because the Calgary Police Service doesn’t want to look like it’s acting in a biased fashion,” he said.
Meanwhile, a local support agency said it was starting to deal with the grief that had descended on Calgary residents, some of whom are still recovering from last year’s floods. Diane Jones Konihowski, Distress Centre Canada’s senior manager of fund development and communications, said calls have increased from people in need of emotional support since the stabbings and volume is expected to increase in the coming days.
“It will happen,” said Ms. Jones Konihowski. “The shock stays with you for a while and then it really sinks in. We’re anticipating it to be a busy long weekend.”
With files from Carrie Tait, Alan Maki, Gary Mason, Jill Mahoney, Kelly Cryderman and Tu Thanh HaReport Typo/Error