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Calgary stabbing accused appears in court, sent to psychiatric hospital

Matthew de Grood is shown in this image from a Calgary 10K race in 2013.


A judge has ordered the man accused of Calgary's worst mass killing transferred to a secure hospital in Edmonton to determine whether he meets the psychiatric criteria for being criminally responsible for five counts of first-degree murder.

Matthew de Grood, 22, also learned on Tuesday he will face his preliminary hearing early next March. He appeared in court in person for the first time since a stabbing rampage at a house party on April 15 left five young people dead and plunged a city into grief.

Dressed in blue prison overalls and with his dark hair unkempt in comparison with frequently published photos taken before the attacks, he said nothing during his brief appearance, walking in slowly then mostly looking intently at the proceedings from the dock.

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Knowing that the accused would appear, several of the young victims' friends and family were in the courtroom, attended to by a police liaison. His previous appearances had been via closed-circuit television.

"Obviously it's very difficult for them. They suffered a tragic loss," said Neil Wiberg, the prosecutor in the case. "But our office meets with [the victims' relatives] and tries to keep them informed on the court process."

In May, Mr. de Grood, the son of a veteran Calgary police officer, was ruled mentally fit to stand trial after a month-long assessment. In the report, forensic psychiatrist Reilly Smith recommended having him evaluated for criminal responsibility in the attacks.

His evaluation determined that Mr. de Grood understood the legal process he faces and could instruct his counsel, but he offered no opinion on criminal responsibility, saying he did not have all the facts of the case.

"This assessment is to determine whether, in the opinion of a psychiatrist, at the time of the offences, my client was considered criminally responsible – in other words he had the necessary intent or whether he lacked it due to mental disease," defence lawyer Allan Fay said.

The new assessment will be conducted over the next month at Alberta Hospital Edmonton, which provides services for adults who may have mental health problems and are "in conflict with the law," according to its website. He will then return to the secure facility in Calgary where he has been held since April.

He is next due in court in late August, after the completion of the psychiatric report.

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"It's an opinion," Mr. Wiberg said.

"They look at a lot of areas and at the very end of the report they present their opinion whether he was criminally responsible or not, but it's a very detailed opinion."

The victims were Jordan Segura, 22; Kaiti Perras, 23; Josh Hunter, 23; Zackariah Rathwell, 21; and Lawrence Hong, 27; all of whom were just embarking on their chosen career paths. They were killed at an end-of-school celebration at a rented house near the University of Calgary when, according to police, the suspect grabbed a knife and attacked party-goers before fleeing.

The violence shocked people who know Mr. de Grood, by all accounts a good student and avid runner who had been set to start law school in the fall.

The gravity of the situation is intensifying with him, Mr. Fay said.

"Obviously he's been in custody for some time since this occurred and he will continue to be in custody for a long time," he said. "He's nervous about the prospect. As he is treated further, I think he becomes more lucid and the impact of what he's facing really comes home to him."

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Mr. de Grood has been allowed visits with his family, including his father, Inspector Doug de Grood, a 30-year police veteran, and mother, Susan de Grood. Two days after the attacks, the couple fought back tears as Insp. de Grood expressed sorrow and condolences to the families of the victims.

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