KELOWNA, B.C. — The Kelowna, B.C., man who admitted to using a hammer to kill his mother has been found not criminally responsible for the crime because of a mental disorder and has been ordered by a judge to be moved to a psychiatric hospital instead of prison.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Alison Beames handed down her verdict on 26-year-old Coner Grossmith shortly after Crown and defence lawyers wrapped up their cases Friday.
Several psychiatrists told the trial that Grossmith had bipolar disorder and was in the middle of a severe episode of manic psychosis when the killing took place.
The trial heard that Grossmith had been drinking the night of the murder and his blood-alcohol level was four times the legal driving limit of .08.
“While his major mental disorder may well have been exacerbated by his extreme alcohol intoxication that night, I find on a balance of probability that but for the major mental disorder, there would have been no attack,” said Beames.
While both Crown and defence lawyers agreed at trial that Grossmith shouldn’t go to prison for his actions, the judge still needed to decide if the man’s consumption of alcohol that night made his actions criminal.
Grossmith, who was heavily medicated during the trial, will be taken to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Port Coquitlam.
The secure, 190-bed facility treats and rehabilitates people who break the law and are not criminally responsible due to mental illness.
A B.C. Review Board panel, which includes a psychiatrist, will hear from Grossmith’s current doctors and decide whether he stays in hospital or is released under round-the-clock supervision.
Grossmith’s father, Harry, was hoping for the verdict all along.
He made a brief statement to reporters after Friday’s verdict, thanking the media for their sensitivity and the lawyers and sheriffs “for many acts of kindness… during this gruelling ordeal.”
He paid tribute to his wife, who “anchored our lives with love, compassion and wisdom.” He was unable to describe the pain and sorrow his family have suffered, he said, or to encapsulate their loss.
“It is my fervent hope that with appropriate counselling and time, my son will find his way to lead a productive and useful life.”
Crown counsel Frank Dubenski said Grossmith will face a future of scrutiny.
“If he is released, which I don’t think he will be, he’ll be on substantial conditions that impose behavioural constraints on him,” Dubenski said.
Earlier in the trial, the judge listened to an hours-long interview between Grossmith and RCMP Cpl. Cameron Holloway that took place the day after the murder.
Grossmith broke down and sobbed, unable to explain why he attacked his mother, Kathleen Gilchrist, in their home in September 2012.
A tape of the interview was played at Grossmith’s second-degree murder trial on Thursday.
It was only after Grossmith heard taped messages from his father and sister that he opened up.
“I don’t know why I did it or what happened,” he told the officer. “I’m trying to remember anything, but I can’t.”
The court heard that hours before the homicide, Grossmith complained to a substance-abuse counsellor of blackouts when he drank heavily. He told Holloway he didn’t know how his mother was attacked or what injuries she had.
When the officer asked him the last thing he remembered the night before, Grossmith said “seeing her watching TV” after he and his parents finished playing cards.
Grossmith leaned over in his chair and sobbed openly after hearing the voice of his father on the recorded message. Harry Grossmith told him that his mother was in stable condition but he wasn’t sure what the outcome would be.
Grossmith staggered and slurred when police arrested him. As two officers took fingernail clippings from him, he made comments that made them think he knew what he’d just done, Holloway said in the interview.
“Do you remember what you said to them?”
“No,” he said.