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Judge finds Abbotsford man 'not criminally responsible' for wife's murder

The body of a woman was found in the aftermath of a house fire on Lefeuvre Road on Nov. 11, 2009.  - John Van Putten
The body of a woman was found in the aftermath of a house fire on Lefeuvre Road on Nov. 11, 2009.
— image credit: John Van Putten

A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled today (Friday) that an Abbotsford man is not criminally responsible for the murder of his wife because he was suffering from a "severe mental illness" at the time of the killing.

Justice Brian Joyce said the man was not able to discern right from wrong when he fired three rifle shots at his wife and then set her body on fire on Nov. 11, 2009 at their home on Lefeuvre Road. The couple cannot be named due to a publication ban.

Joyce agreed with the assessments of two psychiatrists who concluded the man was suffering from either "schizoaffective disorder with depressive subtype" or "depression with psychosis" at the time of the murder.

The man was suffering from delusions and believed either that his wife was the devil or that the devil was growing in her stomach, the court heard.

"He did not believe the form on the bed that he shot was his wife," Joyce said.

"No other reasons or motives emerge from the evidence for (him) to take the life of his wife, who he clearly loved."

Joyce described how the man's first signs of a mental illness developed only about two months before the incident. He became paranoid, believing that the Hells Angels were after him, his cellphone was bugged, and people were coming into his home.

He filed two reports with police in October 2009, saying he feared for his family's safety. Police investigated but could find no evidence to substantiate the claims.

Six days after the last report, the man's wife took her husband to the doctor, who found him to be "paranoid and anxious." He was prescribed sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication.

After a return visit on Nov. 5, the doctor confirmed the medication was working in alleviating the man's anxiety. However, on the day of his arrest, he told police he had previously finished the pills.

The judge described how, on the morning of Nov. 11, the man retrieved a rifle from the attic in their home, while his 10-year-old son was in the living room. His wife was still in bed, as was her 15-year-old daughter.

He placed the gun on the island in the kitchen, and his son asked him if he was going hunting , which was one of his hobbies. He replied yes.

A short while later, he picked up the gun, went to the door of the bedroom and fired a shot. The girl's daughter awoke and came out of her room to see her stepbrother standing with his hands over his ears. She heard a second shot.

They both ran into their rooms. The man then told them to get out of the house and wait for him in the car, so he could take them to their grandparents'. Another shot rang out while they waited in the vehicle.

As they drove away, the boy saw smoke coming from the house. The man told the kids that his wife wasn't coming with them because she was still sleeping.

The man dropped off the kids and then proceeded to a church in Langley, where he confessed to a priest, telling him the killing was "an act of love" and he loved his wife "more than anything in the world."

He phoned police to turn himself in, and was arrested at the church.

Investigators concluded the victim had been shot three times – twice in the torso and once in the head. This is what killed her, and not the subsequent fire that the man ignited, the judge said. A metal canister was found between the woman's feet.

The man has been remanded to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam, where he has been in custody since his arrest.

The matter now proceeds to the B.C. Review Board, which will determine whether he receives an absolute discharge, a discharge with conditions, or remains in the psychiatric hospital.

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