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'I'm very sorry:' Man who killed five while delusional making progress


EDMONTON — A mentally-ill man who stabbed and killed five young people at a Calgary house party six years ago apologized at a review hearing Tuesday, as a psychiatrist said he is making progress.

Matthew de Grood, who is now 29, was found not criminally responsible for the 2014 killings of Zackariah Rathwell, Jordan Segura, Kaitlin Perras, Josh Hunter and Lawrence Hong because he was suffering from schizophrenia at the time.

He appeared at his annual Alberta Review Board hearing to assess his treatment and whether he should be allowed any increased privileges or freedoms over the next year.

The board reserved its decision.

De Grood, wearing a face mask at the virtual hearing, told the hearing in Edmonton that he is doing his best to become a contributing member of society.

"The magnitude of my actions that night were devastating and caused so much pain and suffering. I'm very sorry for what the families of the victims have endured and continue to feel," de Grood said.

"Every day I feel the weight of the offence and how tragic it is on so many people. My Christian faith gives me the strength to deal with the guilt and the enormity of this tragedy. I pray that someday, those who are suffering because of my actions may find peace."

Some family members of the victims recounted their loss and frustration that de Grood could be released back into society.

Kelly Hunter said she misses her son every day and the annual review causes her pain.

"The impact this crime has had on me, my life and my family I don't think will ever get any better. I've become a very angry person," she said.

Gregg Perras said he has agonized over every statement he's given since his daughter was taken away from him.

"This review board has heard innumerable heartfelt accounts of all the damage and sorrow ... of five wonderful people who were killed. As I see it, these descriptions have fallen on deaf ears," he said.

A psychiatrist treating de Grood said he has made progress but any new freedoms should be granted slowly.

Dr. Santoch Rai said de Grood remains at Edmonton's Alberta Hospital but has stayed overnight at his parents' home in Edmonton seven times and has taken hospital transportation to scheduled appointments in the city.

Rai said de Grood has not yet taken public transit or transitioned to a group home, largely due to a change in his anti-psychotic medication from an oral version to one that is injected.

"We're recommending to the board that there be no changes. But there is a possibility that he could transition to a group home. In my view, that's probably unlikely in the next year," said Rai.

"In view of his highly publicized and well-known face in Edmonton and in Alberta, our impression was that he should initially go on hospital transport and after a period go on public transport ... to manage his stress, or exposure to stress, in a very incremental way."

Rai told the review board he is happy with de Grood's progress and that the patient has been volunteering with Meals on Wheels.

He said de Grood knows the risk if he were to stop taking his medication. Rai also said he couldn't guarantee his patient wouldn't be a danger to the public. 

"If something were to happen, we would be surprised and we would not have predicted that outcome," Rai said.

De Grood's lawyer, Allan Fay, said his client has made real progress and made every effort to turn his life around.

He said de Grood should be granted an absolute discharge.

Crown prosecutor Margot Engley said de Grood needs to stay where he is.

"I believe there is ample evidence before the board today that Matthew de Grood continues to present a significant risk to the safety of the public and should not be granted an absolute discharge," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 8, 2020

— By Bill Graveland in Calgary

Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

The Canadian Press