Experts are recommending a man who beheaded a fellow passenger aboard a Greyhound bus should be transferred from a mental facility to a Winnipeg hospital with an eye to moving him to a community group home.
It's also being suggested that Vince Li be granted unescorted outings in the city.
Li's psychiatrist, Dr. Steven Kremer, told a Criminal Code board review hearing Monday that Li has shown "profound improvement" and is at low risk to reoffend. Risk assessments done by several other doctors came to the same conclusion, the board heard.
Li, 46, has not had any hallucinations in over a year and understands the need to take his medication, Kremer said. Should Li be transferred to a group home, staff there would ensure he continued the medication necessary to manage his schizophrenia, the doctor said.
"His likelihood to re-engage in violence is low."
Li has been confined to a psychiatric institution north of Winnipeg since he was found not criminally responsible for stabbing, mutilating and beheading McLean on a bus to Winnipeg in July 2008. Li sat next to the 22-year-old McLean after the young man smiled at him and asked how he was doing.
Li said he heard the voice of God telling him to kill the young carnival worker or "die immediately." Li repeatedly stabbed McLean who unsuccessfully fought for his life. As passengers fled the bus, Li continued stabbing and mutilating the body before he was arrested.
The review board has gradually given Li more freedom, including unescorted visits to Selkirk, Man., and escorted visits to Winnipeg and local beaches.
Li entered the hearing Monday unshackled, sitting and listening quietly while his case was discussed.
The board is expected to issue a decision within a week.
Ken Mackenzie, manager of the forensic mental health program at the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, told the hearing Li has experienced some public backlash on unescorted outings, but was "able to manage it quite effectively."
A larger city such as Winnipeg might grant Li – whose crime was reported around the world – a greater degree of anonymity, he suggested.
"We are acutely aware of the attention this case has been given over the years," Mackenzie told the hearing. "We want to give Vince Li the highest level of independence as we possibly can."
Winnipeg has group homes that are staffed around the clock with people experienced in cases involving the not criminally responsible and Li's reintegration would be gradual, he added.
Neither McLean's mother, Carol DeDelley, or McLean's father attended the hearing. McLean's relatives who did attend declined to comment.
Crown attorney Colleen McDuff said there is no question Li has done well under the current arrangement and she didn't oppose him moving to a Winnipeg hospital.
But she said the Crown has some concerns about how Li could react to a stressful move and suggested another hearing be held before any decision is made.
Alan Libman, Li's lawyer, said there is no reason not to accept the recommendations.
"They are taking into consideration the need to protect the public from dangerous persons," he said. "There has been no contrary opinion offered."
Li has expressed remorse and regret for the killing, Libman said. Li's English has improved vastly through continuing education and he is hoping to complete his studies in the community, he added.
"There is no reason to treat Mr. Li differently than any other person."