There is no evidence to show that Gabriel Klein was suffering from a mental disturbance when he stabbed and killed 13-year-old Letisha Reimer on Nov. 1, 2016 at Abbotsford Senior Secondary, a judge ruled Friday.
Justice Heather Holmes said, for that reason, Klein is guilty of second-degree murder in Reimer’s death, as well as the aggravated assault of her 14-year-old friend (whose name is protected by a publication ban).
Holmes rendered her verdict in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, reading a 15-page synopsis of her decision, which she said was a “manageable version” of the full 55-page judgment.
The courtroom was packed with supporters of the families, many of whom wore black-and-red “Abby Strong” T-shirts.
Before the proceedings began, a sheriff asked that, at the judge’s request, everyone wearing the T-shirts cover them up or remove them in order to ensure the “impartiality” of the court.
Holmes said Klein had admitted to stabbing the two girls, but it was up to her to determine whether he had the intent to kill or cause bodily harm, which would result in a conviction for second-degree murder, as argued by the Crown.
Defence lawyer Martin Peters had argued that Klein was suffering from a mental illness at the time of the attack, and should be found guilty of manslaughter. Peters said Klein had stolen the knife with the intention of stabbing a police officer to trigger a suicide-by-cop scenario.
Holmes said there was evidence at trial from various witnesses that Klein had, at times, seemed confused, anxious and agitated in the days and hours before the killing.
She said three witnesses had observed him acting strangely as he walked down the road about 30 minutes before the attack. One of them said he would have called police but he lost sight of Klein.
But Holmes said there were several other witnesses who described Klein as being “friendly and engaging” before the stabbing.
In the hours leading up to the killing, Klein stole alcohol from a liquor store and a hunting knife from Cabela’s. Holmes said witness testimony and surveillance video indicated that Klein was “purposeful and efficient” during these tasks.
Klein was diagnosed with schizophrenia in January 2017 while in custody at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam. Holmes said Klein spoke with several psychiatrists about the attack at the school, but there were numerous inconsistencies in what he shared.
In some cases, he described seeing witches, demons or monsters when he stabbed Reimer 14 times and the other girl four times.
But in other cases, he said he heard a voice saying, “Kill! Kill!”
The judge said there was no concrete evidence to prove that Klein was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the attack or that he intended to follow through with a suicide-by-cop scenario.
Holmes said that, in the hours before the attack, Klein spoke angrily of “doing crime to get what he wanted.”
“In my view, there’s no evidence in this case that any mental disturbance that Mr. Klein may have been experiencing at the time of the attack affected his ability to foresee the ordinary consequences of his actions,” the judge said.
Klein’s sentencing hearing has been scheduled for June 1 and 2. His lawyer said Klein is Metis and, therefore, a Gladue report will be presented to the court.
This is a pre-sentencing report that includes, among other things, information about an individual’s Aboriginal background, so that it can be considered in sentencing.
A conviction for second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence, but parole eligibility can range from 10 to 25 years and is determined by the judge.
Speaking outside of the courthouse, Dave Teixeira, spokesman for the Reimer family, said they were pleased the judge was “firm in her conviction” that, when Klein walked into the school, he had the intent to kill Reimer and harm her friend.
Teixeira said the second-degree murder conviction was “the best decision of a whole host of horrible options,” but it doesn’t change the situation.
“No matter what the sentence is … the sentence for them is they don’t get to be with Letisha … No sentence can bring her back. There’s no joy in this. The only thing we can now do is make sure that we honour Letisha’s memory,” he said.