Janelle Guyatt, left, with Derek Descoteau’s mother Brenda Smith outside the Duncan courthouse. (File photo by Don Bodger)

Mother of Chemainus murder victim upset after accused deemed unfit to stand trial

Smith vows to keep fighting until justice served for Descoteau

Brenda Smith is outraged over the outcome of the hearing to determine the mental fitness of Colin John, the man accused of first-degree murder in the death of her son Derek Descoteau in May of 2016 in Chemainus.

In a Duncan courtroom Friday, Justice Lisa Warren announced John had been found unfit to continue to stand trial.

His trial had started last November, but was halted after the prosecution wrapped up its case and defence lawyer Scott Sheets was given permission to seek a psychiatric assessment of John after questions about his mental state arose.

Smith and family couldn’t even stand listening to the entirety of Warren’s lengthy explanation.

“I had to get up and leave the courtroom,” she said. “I couldn’t take it any longer. We just kept hearing she agreed with the not criminally responsible (assessment).”

Smith and husband Steve left the court in tears.

“Our heads are swimming,” Brenda said. “There’s so many things that were brought up.”

John is also charged with the attempted murder of Janelle Guyatt, who suffered numerous knife wounds and has undergone several surgeries since the incident. She has also been in the courtroom during the process, along with many of Descoteau’s family, friends and supporters.

“I just think it’s ridiculous,” said Rob Jeeves, one of Descoteau’s good friends, of the decision. “It’s just gone on way too long. He needs to get what he deserves.”

“Now we don’t know what the next step is,” added Smith.

A teleconference between the prosecution and defence will determine that Sept. 3.

“Right now, our minds are in 20,000 different directions,” conceded Smith. “We will never stop fighting this.”

The Smiths and Descoteaus are not alone in their grief. Several high-profile cases in the region recently have drawn the ire of victims’ families – including the granting of day parole for six months to convicted impaired driver Kenneth Fenton in the death of RCMP Const. Sarah Beckett in Victoria.

The ruling on John does not necessarily mean he’ll never be brought to trial again. For now, he’ll be kept in psychiatric care until he’s able to be tried and considered capable of speaking in his own defence.

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