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'This case is absolutely heartbreaking'
Hay River man with mental illness found not criminally responsible for stabbing mother

Sarah Ladik
Northern News Services
Monday, February 23, 2015

A man who stabbed his mother twice in the chest with a 10-inch knife has been found not criminally responsible for her death.

The verdict in the second-degree murder trial of Richard Deleeuw came after three days of testimony pointing to a history of mental illness in the man who was 25-years old when he stabbed 52-year-old Linda Lafferty in the woman's Cranberry Crescent home on Sept. 24, 2012.

NWT Supreme Court Justice Karan Shaner ruled Feb. 18 that although Deleeuw stabbed his mother and that she died as a result, he is not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder.

"This case is absolutely heartbreaking," said Shaner, adding that she couldn't imagine the difficulties the family, including Deleeuw, was facing in the wake of the incident.

Court heard from several expert witnesses who testified to Deleeuw's agitated state of mind in the days leading up to the event, including episodes of locking doors and continually checking them, arranging shoes in an L-shaped pattern, talking to people who were not there, refusing to eat and showing suspicion toward others in the house, including his mother.

The court also heard Deleeuw made no attempt to hide his involvement the stabbing after the incident.

He had walked past Lafferty who had collapsed in the front doorway after he stabbed her, said Crown prosecutor Marc Lecorre, and when confronted by an RCMP officer, had said,

"I stabbed my mom. I don't know. I just went berserk."

Dr. Lenka Zedkova, a forensic psychiatrist with the Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, testified to Deleeuw's history of psychosis, dating back to his early 20s.

"Although I still believe that this is not a straightforward case," she said. "Paranoid ideation for his mother was the likely motive for his actions."

The court heard that Deleeuw had been off his medication for some months prior to the incident and that his mother had been hiding pills in his food. He had stopped taking them two days before he killed her.

"There are so many barriers to getting help for mental illness," said Shaner, adding that beyond stigma and fear, regional disparities in diagnosis options and facilities available played a role in Deleeuw's lack of effective treatment.

"Sadly, it is often the criminal court system that becomes the first step to treatment," she said.

Deleeuw, who had been in remand since his release from the Alberta hospital in 2013, is set to appear before a review board who will decide whether he will be granted an absolute discharge, conditional discharge or long-term hospitalization.

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