Political interference alleged in assessment hearings in Matthew de Grood case
By Dean Bennett in Edmonton
Alberta’s high court is being asked to overturn a review board decision relating to the stabbing deaths of five young people at a Calgary house party on the grounds the former provincial justice minister interfered.
The lawyer for Matthew de Grood, in a filing to Alberta’s Court of Appeal, says her client was denied a fair Alberta Review Board hearing last fall, and argues former minister Doug Schweitzer’s statements and actions played a role.
“The justice minister’s comments and his direct recruitment of certain individuals to the Review Board has created an apprehension of bias that affected the fairness of his 2022 annual review,” lawyer Jacqueline Petrie argued in a document filed Thursday.
“The Review Board, and more directly the chair of his hearing, did not treat (de Grood) in an impartial and procedurally fair manner.
“The disposition the board made was not reflective of the actual risk he poses but rather is the result of political interference and public pressure not to discharge him or grant him the privileges he seeks.”
De Grood, 31, was found not criminally responsible in 2016 for the killings two years earlier of Zackariah Rathwell, Jordan Segura, Kaitlin Perras, Josh Hunter and Lawrence Hong because he was suffering from schizophrenia at the time.
Since then, he has been under supervision and his case is reviewed by the Alberta Review Board yearly to determine his mental state and whether he can transition further back into the community while not jeopardizing public safety.
Schweitzer, who has since retired from politics, weighed in on de Grood’s case in his role as justice minister in October 2019 after the panel granted de Grood freedom to transition from institutional care to a supervised Edmonton group home setting along with unsupervised passes to the surrounding area.
Schweitzer at the time took to Twitter to say he has heard from Albertans “frustrated and disturbed” over the decision and said he would lobby the federal government to review the release rules while pursuing options to ensure the board processes “respect victims.”
Soon after, the chair of the review board resigned and, said Petrie, in the months that followed Schweitzer appointed new panel members that “were politically aligned with the provincial government,” which she said raise reasonable doubts on whether the board could be considered fair and impartial on de Grood’s case.
A year after the 2019 decision, the review board, with its new chair and members, reversed the freedoms granted de Grood. That decision was later overturned by the Court of Appeal on the grounds it was unreasonable and not supported by the evidence.
Last fall, the review board declared him a serious threat to public safety and said he must be kept under constant supervision in an Edmonton group home.
Petrie argues evidence at the latest hearing showed de Grood was stable under medication, has family support and is a low-risk to reoffend. She said the board failed to assess the evidence properly or apply the proper legal tests in making its decision.
Schweitzer did not immediately return a request for comment.
Alberta Justice said the Alberta Review Board is composed of psychiatrists, legal and public members who operate and make decisions independent of the government.
“When recruiting and appointing to positions, candidates are considered depending on the experience, competencies, and attributes required for the role. Applicants are screened for conflict of interest prior to appointment,” the department said in a statement.
“As has historically been the case, the justice minister selects potential candidates to be appointed and will bring them forward to cabinet for approval.”
De Grood’s 2016 trial heard evidence he attacked the individuals at a party, held to mark the end of the school year, believing the devil was talking to him and a war was about to begin that signalled the end of the world.
He told officers he knew what he did was “atrocious” but he was killing Medusas and werewolves.
The Crown deadline for responding is Feb. 28.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2023.
Police investigating how shooter got firearm after autopsy and balistic analysis
News release from the Edmonton Police Service
Autopsy on shooter, ballistic analysis complete in line of duty deaths
An autopsy on the shooter and ballistic analysis of the firearm have been completed in the Mar. 16, 2023 EPS line of duty deaths.
The Edmonton Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy on Mar. 22, 2023, and confirmed that the 16-year-old male shooter’s cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the head consistent with being self-inflicted.
“We recognize that there is intense public interest in this investigation,” says EPS Deputy Chief Devin Laforce. “At this time, our priorities need to be the integrity of ongoing investigations, including the origin of the firearm, as well as the safety and privacy of all the families affected by this tragedy. For these reasons, we are not releasing or confirming the name of the deceased.”
A bullet casing recovered from the scene of a Mar. 12, 2023 shooting at a nearby restaurant in the area of 133 Street and 114 Avenue has been forensically matched to the firearm that was recovered at the 132 Street and 114 Avenue apartment, where Constable Brett Ryan and Constable Travis Jordan were fatally shot on Mar. 16, 2023.
Investigators believe the suspect in the Mar. 12 shooting to be the same 16-year-old male responsible for the deaths of the two EPS members, although this has yet to be confirmed. Detectives are also working to trace the origins of the firearm and how it came to be in the youth’s possession.
At this time, investigators continue to believe that the youth’s parents, police dispatch and Constables Ryan and Jordan had no information to suggest there was a firearm in the home when the family dispute call for service was made on Mar. 16.
“Both events have been served by robust investigations that have followed all lines of inquiry,” says Deputy Chief Devin Laforce. “All tips and other investigative avenues were pursued exhaustively by the investigating teams.”
The male shot on Mar. 12 in the restaurant remains in hospital in critical but stable condition, and the youth’s mother who was shot on Mar. 16 remains in hospital in serious but stable condition.
Search of four Edmonton homes results in Cocaine and Meth bust
News release from the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT)
Cocaine seized after four Edmonton homes searched
More than two kilograms of cocaine, cash, and four vehicles have been seized following an ALERT Edmonton investigation into cocaine trafficking.
The investigation began in October 2022. Police were able to identify four homes and four vehicles linked to the drug trafficking operation.
“Through the course of this five-month investigation, officers were able to identify several suspects, and seized several pieces of equipment which were being used to produce large, commercial-sized quantities of product. This tells us that this was a much bigger, sophisticated operation,” said Sgt. Jeff Woodliffe, ALERT Edmonton.
On February 23, 2023, police searched four homes and seized the following items as evidence:
- 2.6 kgs of cocaine;
- 28 grams of methamphetamine;
- 10 kgs of a cocaine buffing agent; and
- $11,000 in cash.
The investigation remains ongoing as investigators prepare reports and disclosure for Crown Counsel.
The Edmonton Police Service assisted throughout the investigation.
Members of the public who suspect drug or gang activity in their community can call local police, or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers is always anonymous.
ALERT was established and is funded by the Alberta Government and is a compilation of the province’s most sophisticated law enforcement resources committed to tackling serious and organized crime.
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