An Inside Look Into Not Criminally Responsible
Five lives taken, one changed forever and hundreds affected in ways words cannot describe. Matthew de Grood, a University of Calgary student, stabbed and killed five people at a house party on April 15, 2014. However, he would not be sentenced to a lifetime in jail. Instead, he would be pronounced Not Criminally Responsible (NCR).
Matthew de Grood, a University of Calgary student who committed five murders during a state of psychosis April 15. 2014. He was pronounced ‘Not Criminally Responsible’ on May 25. 2016.
It was 12:50 a.m. on a Tuesday morning when Calgary police were called to a home on Butler Crescent for reports of several people injured during a house party.
When they arrived, officers found three young people dead in the house. Two others were badly hurt and taken to the hospital. They died later that morning due to their injuries.
These victims were the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University students: Lawrence Hong, Josh Hunter, Kaitlin Perras, Zackariah Rathwell and Jordan Segura. The suspect was Matthew de Grood, son of a former Calgary police officer and a guest invited to the party. He was now charged with five counts of first-degree murder.
De Grood’s lawyer, Allan Fay, sat down with us to explain the details of that night.
“He'd been at the house party all night and he was already exhibiting some rather strange behavior, but then it was towards the end that most of the people had gone home and there were the victims and a couple of others there," says Fay.
Allan Fay, criminal defence lawyer sat down with us to recount de Grood's trial and verdict.
“According to the reports, what happened was he had this psychosis that the world was full of vampires and werewolves. He was talking to one of the victims and the victim made a comment which Matthew — in his psychotic state — interpreted it to be basically revealing himself as a werewolf and that he was going to kill Matthew," says Fay. "So at that point, Matthew grabbed a knife out of the knife block from the counter and that's what he used.”
De Grood stabbed the five victims one by one. The Calgary Herald reported that several friends had gone to McDonalds. They came back just after 1:20 a.m. and saw de Grood chasing one of the victims on to the lawn. Brendan McCabe, the host of the party, told police he chased after de Grood who was wielding a knife over his head. After catching up to him he was able to grab the hand that was holding the weapon and convinced him to let it go.
McCabe wrote about his experience in an article for Vice in 2017 called, “My Friend Killed Five People in My Home But I Won’t Call Him a Monster.”
“I had invited Matthew de Grood to my home, and until that evening these words would be meaningless to most, routine interactions which would otherwise recede into memory, but something very different happened. That night, Matt stabbed five people in a matter of minutes—while some friends and I left to get munchies—our return colliding with his exit from the house. In those brief moments I lost six friends and found myself thrust into an arduous legal process and barred from my home,” wrote McCabe.
Leading up to this night, family and friends had witnessed de Grood acting strangely but says it was nothing serious. De Grood’s psychologist, Sergio Santana, explaines that these symptoms were him getting angry with his parents, interested in new ideas, and not hanging out with his friends.
“So really, his parents thought that he was just stressed out and developing different interests and growing up,” said Santana.
After the crime, de Grood’s legal team assumed he was Not Criminally Responsible (NCR). In the words of his lawyer, Allan Fay, NCR implies that although de Grood committed a criminal offense, the action which constitutes the offense that their state of mind was in cannot be convicted. De Grood could not understand the nature and consequences of the act or the fact that it was wrong.
Sergio Santana, de Grood’s psychologist explains what treatments de Grood underwent and what his freedoms are now.
“The criminal law is clear and has developed over hundreds and hundreds of years to get to the point where it is now. And mental illness is just that, it’s an illness, it's a sickness. It's a sickness that can be treated and if it's properly treated it can result in the person getting better and no longer being dangerous,” says Fay.
Since de Grood is the son of a high ranking police officer, Douglas de Grood, there were some concerns of bias during the investigation. Therefore, he was sent to Edmonton for the assessment and overlooked by a forensic psychiatrist, forensic psychologist and a senior forensic psychiatrist.
Santana explained that once admitted to the hospital it was very clear that de Grood was "psychotic."
“Now you have to prove that the illness was interfering with his thought process to the extent that he didn’t understand that what he was doing might result in the death of these people," says Santana. "When his parents first saw him after he committed the crime he wasn’t remorseful. He thought he had killed vampires and werewolves. For him they were after him, they were going to kill him. So in his mind, he did the right thing.”
It's now been almost four years since the killings, and only two since de Grood was put in the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre. His psychologist, Sergio Santanna, says he is now in complete remission.
The Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre is where de Grood lives while under the Alberta Review Board. Photo credit: Devitt & Forand Contractors Inc.
“What he is doing now is receiving treatment and that is the medication that keeps his illness under control. But of course, a lot of his treatment is coming to terms with that he did," says Santana.
Once a patient is declared NCR, they've diverted away from the traditional criminal justice system and are under the supervision of the Alberta Review Board. Every year, Matthew will appear before the Board alongside Fay and Santana. The Board will decide whether or not he is granted more freedoms.
According to Canadian Legislation, the review board has to look at four factors that will decide the amount of freedoms de Grood will be granted. The first and most important factor is that the public is protected. The second looks at the mental state of de Grood, the third reviews his rights to re-enter the community and the fourth looks at any other needs that need to be accounted for.
De Grood has received a minimal amount of freedoms since beginning his stay at the facility. “Matt has been hospitalized for nearly two years and the only thing that he has been allowed to do is walk around the hospital grounds with an escort, and be taken off hospital grounds for medical reasons," explains Santana.
Along with medications, de Grood has also undergone psychoeducation, which Santana says means he is learning about his illness.
“Nobody that knew Matt de Grood would have ever thought that he would do this. He had no history of violence before and he was not a violent man. If anything, he was a shy, submissive man. Matt knows that if he goes psychotic again, he might lose it again, and kill people,” says Santana.
De Grood has become so aware of his symptoms that he now gives classes to other patients dealing with schizophrenia. When he is not doing that, he is working on online classes and visiting with family.
“They have what they call open visits, and he has a large family and they are always visiting him. They play games, they talk, they eat,” says Santanna.
Despite apparent progress, Santana reckons that it will be a long time before de Grood is granted an absolute discharge. “[That’s] when the board believes that you can manage your illness by yourself and you understand your illness so well that you’re going to take care of it. But even if that were the case, Matt will still require treatment because his illness is not going to disappear. He won’t be mandated to attend if that was the case. But I don’t ever see that happening, I don’t see the board saying, ‘Okay we are going to take that risk,’” he says.
In Calgary, psychologists also work with the victim's families as part of what they call “restorative justice.” The treatment of the victims or the victim's families is comparable to the treatment of the perpetrator.
Santana explained that the families of the deceased are not supportive of de Grood’s verdict. “They wish that he would have gone to prison and rot in hell. They are struggling severely with what happened,” he says.
From left: Zackariah Rathwell, Lawrence Hong, Kaitlin Perras, Jordan Segura and Joshua Hunter were stabbed to death by Matthew de Grood April 15. 2014. (Photo credit: CBC News)
The families of the deceased wrote a joint statement on May 25, 2016 after de Grood was found NCR and sentenced under the Alberta Review Board.
“The end of this trial is not the end of this journey for us, we continue to be broken. The finding of NCR will be a recurring nightmare for our families...There will be no peace for us; our wounds never fully heal because every year our families will have to wonder, what will be the fate of the man who damaged so many lives."
As Matthew de Grood continues to move through the Alberta Review Board system and earn more freedoms, many disagree on where justice truly lies.
Below are some of the various voices on this topic.
While many may have heard of the term "NCR," certainly not all are aware of the entire process it takes for a patient to go from committing a crime to being released back into society.
The following three experts, Sergio Santana, Scharie Tavcer, and Allan Fay provide their opinions on "Not Criminally Responsible," and what the overall public stigma is.
Inside the Mind of Manic Mike: A Day In the Life of an Ex-NCR Patient
Mike Fillinger stood out among the crowd at a Tim Horton's off the highway in Alberta's foothills. He had piercing blue eyes and a black baseball cap. Nothing about him revealed his past, or that he was charged with arson seven years ago and found ‘Not Criminally Responsible’ (NCR).
Today, Fillinger stills live in the small town of Rocky Mountain House where many people know about his past and the journey he’s taken. After leaving the Tim Hortons’, Fillinger showed us his home and town and talked about his rehabilitation.
Fillinger was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2007. Despite treatment from his psychiatrist and multiple forms of medication he had a psychotic break in 2011 and committed arson inside his neighbor’s home.
Seven years later, Fillinger recalls his psychosis occurred because there were still triggers in his own life he needed to overcome for himself. For him, the triggers can be people, places or things.
“What I did find out about myself was that I was a yes person. I always said yes to what people wanted me to do even if I didn’t want to do it,” explained Fillinger.
Fillinger lived in constant fear that people would become angry with him if he ever said no. After the incident, he learned to focus more time on working towards building up his own mental wellbeing. This has been the changing factor of controlling his disease.
On the night of the crime, Fillinger says, the trigger for him was his now ex-wife. “My wife said at the time if I get sick again she’s leaving me, so that really tore me apart and so I lost all hope. That broke my heart and my mindset went down the drain.”
On the night of Aug. 23, 2011, in Rocky Mountain House, Alta., Fillinger was driving back from Calgary with two of his kids. His oldest child and wife at the time were staying in Calgary to catch a flight to Disneyland.
“I bought some smokes, a six-pack of beer, supper for the kids and after supper put them to bed. I went outside to have a smoke and at that time I was in a hypomanic state and I was wondering how I could burn water,” he says.
Later that night, Fillinger went to bed. He woke up around 2 a.m. to see that all the lights in his neighbor's house were on. He got up and walked over, but when he got to the door he realized that it was unlocked. He decided to walk inside and at that moment was overcome by anxiety and mania.
“I had some ideas of the Illuminati at the time so I assumed that my neighbors were a part of some secret society too, and I had to stop them by burning their house down. I had this sense of fear that these demons were out and about trying to take over the world and possess people to do awful things to themselves and to other people," he says. "I thought in my own mind that if I could prevent the demons from coming up from the bathroom toilet that I would be able to stop them.”
Fillinger then did what he thought was right at the time. He turned on a hairdryer and threw into the toilet, along with an aerosol can, in hopes that it would kill off the evil spirits that his mind had created.
“As soon as I walked out the door I knew I had done something wrong. I had so much fear in me that the evil spirits were around that I couldn’t turn back and unplug the blow dryer and reverse what I did," he says. "I took my two kids to the church thinking the house was going to blow up."
Despite Fillinger still being in a state of psychosis the next morning, he went to the police and turned himself in.
After that Fillinger spent the night in jail. He was then transferred to Rocky Hospital and then to Ponoka Hospital.
Once discharged from the Ponoka Hospital, he spent the next full year in and out of court. Once assessed, the judge declared Fillinger NCR for his crime.
Fillinger explained his time in treatment was a learning experience. His days were spent reading books and learning more about his illness. Throughout his time there he kept a positive mind in hopes that he'd be released as quick as possible.
“I remember Dr. Santana saying ‘Why are you here Mike?’ And I replied ‘I’m here to get a tune-up.’ This is a learning experience for me to be able to manage my diagnosis and learn how to get the support I need.”
Today, Fillinger is accepted by his community and has built a large support network. He is now working on creating a rehabilitation program called “Now Suffering Will End,” for other people in the area dealing with mental health issues. Manic Mike, a nickname created by Mike himself, plans to use hiking, camping, fitness, and support groups as a way to help people dealing with bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety. Fillinger shares his journey – a day in the life of someone who was pronounced NCR.
The horrific stabbings of five people at a house party in 2014 caused a ripple effect across Calgary. Kyle Tenove lost two of his closest friends and bandmates that night. Almost four years later, he says he’s found healing through a proactive mindset, raising his daughter, and teaching music.
Tenove’s band Zackariah and the Prophets, comprised of himself, Josh Hunter, Zackariah Rathwell, and Barry Mason, had just released their debut EP two days before the tragedy struck. A day after that, they were hanging out together, talking about the future. It was the time of their lives.
At six in the morning on April 15, 2014, Tenove woke up to his girlfriend telling him that a group of people had been stabbed at a party in Brentwood the night before. “Do you think it was that party?” she asked, referring to the party that Josh Hunter and Zackariah Rathwell, former bandmates of Tenove, had attended.
Tenove replied, “No, it couldn't have been,” and went back to bed. He awoke again an hour later to Josh Hunter’s sister calling to say that her brother was dead.
“I can feel that feeling to this day – of getting ripped apart,” Tenove recalls.
April of 2018 will mark the four year anniversary, but the journey from that first day hasn't been easy for Tenove. “I would say the first year to two years were horrible. I was going to work and I was doing charitable things and all this, but mentally and physically I was not good.” Tenove says he was drinking heavily, acting recklessly for no reason, and suffering from severe panic attacks, which prevented him from being able to drive for two years.
Worst of all, coping with the loss distanced him from his daughter. “I don't think I was a good dad for a couple of years. She had just turned one three weeks before they died. So, from the ages of one to three, I was not present at all.”
Tenove says that friends would tell him that it was necessary for him to heal, but he’s not proud of his actions looking back. “That's probably one of the most painful things about it for me.”
Over the past two years, the recovery process has become a lot easier, says Tenove. It was a choice he made on his own, which he says is what sets him apart from many of his peers also affected.
“You have to be proactive to recover in anything. If it's drug addiction, alcohol addiction, like grief, you have to be proactive. Nobody will do anything for you… You have to make that choice yourself and a lot of people don't, which is really sad.”
Part of that choice was being more present for his daughter. In contrast to two years ago, Tenove is now spending more time than ever with her since he is now a stay-at-home dad.
“I'm lucky because I do have a young daughter, so it was my responsibility to get my life back together.”
After a brief break from music, Tenove was quick to pick up his bass again and play for a new purpose. At night, Tenove now plays in numerous bands including a wedding band, Brother Bandits, and as a bassist for local artist, Amelie Patterson.
Although the band Zackariah and the Prophets are no longer active, Tenove and Mason have continued to pay tribute to the victims and their former bandmates. They’re both teaching music with Prophets of Music, a non-profit organization founded by Josh Hunter’s father, Barclay Hunter. The organization is dedicated to supporting emerging artists through education and community.
Even without the loss of his bandmates, music would have been ingrained in his life.
However, moving forward, Tenove explains that he plays for a new purpose now.
“Anything I do musically, I feel is for them. I wouldn't ever write a song, I don't think, that would be specifically lyrics about it. But, there's always a part of a song or there's a chord in there, there's a feeling that I'm conveying when I'm playing that is for them and that's where my drive comes from.”
Courtney Ingram is passionate about visual storytelling and offering people a voice that otherwise wouldn't
have it. Her skills lie in photography,
videography, and design. She has covered topics across the board from true crime, to ASMR, to hate crime legislation. Her passion for mental health awareness and a guilty pleasure for true crime and mystery helped inspire the idea for this project. Following graduation, she hopes to continue her photography business and start up her own multimedia journalism company.
Natalie Valleau is finishing her fourth year at Mount Royal University for her Bachelor's degree in Communications, majoring in Journalism. Her degree has taught her a lot about the different avenues journalism can offer and the different ways she can tell a story. She's experienced in photography, video, and graphic design. The past four years at Mount Royal has inspired her to focus on issues that relate to feminism and human rights violations. After pursuing a minor in Women and Gender Studies, she has decided to continue this research and shine a light on it in her future reporting.
Breanne Kramer is passionate about people and using different mediums to tell their stories. She has experience writing in different areas including addiction, homelessness, naturopathy and homeopathic remedies, as well, city infrastructure. Upon the completion of her Communication – Journalism degree, she plans to use her strong writing skills to excel in the corporate communications world. Journalism has taught her many skills she will be able to carry with her in any career path she may choose. Journalism is a journey of curiosity, dedication, and resilience.