A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled that the man who stabbed Abbotsford high school student Letisha Reimer to death in 2016 should be held criminally responsible.
The ruling, announced Thursday (April 22) in New Westminster, means that Gabriel Klein’s prior conviction will stand for the second-degree murder of Reimer, 13, and the aggravated assault of her 14-year-old friend on Nov. 1, 2016 at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
The sentencing hearing has been set for June 22 and 23 in New Westminster.
Justice Heather Holmes rejected Klein’s application that he was not criminally responsible due to mental disorder (NCRMD). In her written ruling, she said the evidence did not support that Klein’s state of mind at the time of the attack rendered him incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of his actions or knowing that they were wrong – the two requirements that must be met for an NCRMD ruling.
Holmes said there were numerous inconsistencies in Klein’s “core narrative” at the NCRMD hearing: that he stabbed the girls because he thought one was a zombie and the other was a witch and he heard voices telling him to “Kill! Kill! Kill!”
The justice said these inconsistencies included that, in his first descriptions of the stabbings, he told two corrections officers who were guarding him in hospital that he had attacked “girls.”
Holmes said Klein told a psychiatrist in hospital four days after the stabbing that he saw girls who began to look like monsters when he squinted his eyes. He then described that one looked liked a grey owl and the other like a “shape-shifting witch.”
Klein told yet another doctor that he thought the girls were monsters as they walked by him and, as they approached him, one looked like a monster and the other a demon.
Holmes said there were also inconsistencies in the descriptions Klein provided about the voices he said he heard in his head at the time of the attack.
At some points, he said a voice named Lucy told him to kill, while at other times he said Lucy was a name spoken by that voice. Klein also indicated at various times that there were two voices, that the devil’s voice told him to kill, and that there were no voices, Holmes said.
The justice said there were also inconsistences about Klein’s history of hearing voices, including when they first began.
Holmes said “even a truthful person will recount experiences in different ways at different times” and psychosis “may additionally challenge the encoding of memory.”
“However, neither possible psychosis at the time of the events nor other distinctive mental health features could account for the most marked inconsistencies in Mr. Klein’s narrative of the key events,” she said.
“And, weighing against Mr. Klein’s credibility and reliability are additional features, such as his readiness to deceive and to manipulate for a desired result.”
Holmes said Klein never suggested he did not know that stabbing people was wrong or that, when the voices told him to kill, he was incapable of appreciating that to do so was wrong.
“On all the evidence, Mr. Klein has not proven that his schizophrenia had reached its acute stage by the time of the offences. Nor has he proven that he was experiencing psychosis with visual and/or auditory hallucinations when he committed the offences,” she said.
A second-degree murder conviction comes with an automatic life sentence, but the judge must determine parole eligibility, which can range from 10 to 25 years.
Klein previously went to trial and was convicted in March 2020. He was due for sentencing last September, but instead he applied for an NCRMD hearing.
The NCRMD defence had not been presented at his trial.
During the NCRMD hearing, which concluded in January, defence lawyer Martin Peters argued that Klein, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was in a psychotic state when he stabbed the two girls. Klein testified at his trial that he stabbed the girls because he thought one was a zombie and the other was a witch.
Crown lawyer Rob Macgowan countered at the NCR hearing that there was no evidence to support that defence other than Klein’s own words. Macgowan said if the judge didn’t believe Klein, she would be left with the same evidence upon which he was found guilty at trial.