Schizphrenic man terrorizes family … their story

The following information details events that transpired at a residence in Cornwall, Ontario recently. The story continues to unfold and will be updated.

On Sunday September 19th at approximately 8pm a man entered my back yard. He may have tried to enter the house through a bedroom window as his handprint is visible on the glass. Directly below that window is the window to my teenage sons’ bedroom. The man spoke to him through the window. He asked him if he could see him, if he was big, if he wore glasses and if he was scared. He told him what his intentions were.

My son ran upstairs to alert me. The man entered the house at the same time. He took a large wrought iron framed mirror from the entrance way and held it in front of his face. After my son called my name I head the man talking and stood up from the couch. When I spoke to him in an attempt to diffuse the situation he commented that he knew now who he was going to kill first and raised the mirror above his head.

My son ran to get a phone and to get help.

At this point my young daughter who had been in her room and came out to see what was happening began screaming. I ran to avoid the mirror that was smashed down where I was standing towards my daughter and into her room with her. The man chased us down the hall. I attempted to lock the bedroom door but he was able to easily force the door open several inches at a time while I was trying to hold it shut. My daughter was screaming asking me if he was going to kill her over and over. I will never forget the look on her face or the sound of her voice. My daughter grabbed a phone and handed it to me and I called 911. I gave them the address and told them to get there and threw the phone down because I needed all my concentration to hold the door shut. My daughter opened the window and jumped out into the backyard to run for help as I held back the door. The window is about 8 feet high and my daughter is very small. She was incredibly brave and knew exactly what to do.

I ran and jumped out the window after her and ran to the neighbours’ house where she had just reached. We ran through their house in an absolute panic not knowing what to do. I screamed that there was a man in our house trying to kill us.

One neighbour ran outside to my house where he yelled at the man to get out of the house. At this point the man was yelling through the window and it was understood that he was implying that he knew me and my children.

The police arrived. The man barricaded himself in my other sons’ room.

I can’t even begin to describe the terror I felt knowing that I did not know where my eldest son was, and that my younger son and my husband were due to arrive home separately at that very time.

My daughter and I could see the man through the neighbours’ window so we hid so that he could not see us. He could see right into their apartment.

More and more police arrived and eventually they had the house surrounded. My daughter was extremely panicked being right next door. Worried that he might try to come and get us.

I waited but no police or ambulance arrived for us. Some time later I asked my husband to please take us out of there. My neighbours shielded us from the man’s view so that we could get into the car and leave. Not knowing what to do but needing to try and ease my daughters panic we went to a family member’s house.

Family stayed behind at the scene and kept us updated by telephone. At approximately 2:30 am I received the call from my husband that the man had left the house and was in custody of the police. He warned me that there was damage to the house.

September 20th 2010

We went to the house in the morning to see the damage. My son’s belongings were strewn across the lawn along with glass from the window which was smashed. Inside there was damage to the living room and hallways, and my son’s room and all of his belongings were destroyed. Furniture and electronics were damaged in other areas of the house as well. The damage to my son’s room was unbelievable. His possessions, all four walls, furniture and the window were all destroyed.

After an intensive clean up effort by several family members I went to the police station that evening to inquire what we were to do next. I was told that the officers who worked the case were not working that day. I insisted that I wanted to speak with someone and so an officer was sent down. I wanted to know what the details of the situation were. I was not spoken to at all by any police yet and had no clue what I was supposed to do, if we were safe, or even what had happened at my home. They hadn’t heard my statement yet so how could they proceed? I was given limited information but was told that the man was schizophrenic and in the hospital under 72 hour evaluation.

I was not happy with the details of the investigation I was given and asked if they intended to take my statement. I did not feel that this incident was being viewed seriously or confident the police even knew what had happened. It felt like once he was discovered to be a known schizophrenic the case was closed. I was adamant that the possibility that this man knew us and was stalking us be investigated. An appointment was made for the following day where I would be able to give my statement to the police.

An officer phoned my husband that day to give him the phone number for victim services, who when I called gave me another phone number for counselling which I could have easily gotten from the phone book. My daughter may be able to get counselling but for my teenage son and myself there is a waiting list of about 3 months. This was the only effort made to offer us medical help or support in any way besides asking my panicked son if we were safe. No ambulance was sent for us. We were not treated for shock or injuries. My daughter had a bruised and possibly broken or sprained toe along with a few scrapes and bruises. I had several bruises along my hip and leg from the door hitting me.

September 21st 2010

When driving down Second Street on our way to give our statements (I was taking my daughter and son as well so they could give their statements even though it was not asked) we came to General Hospital. While waiting at the light we looked over and were stunned to see the man that had just days earlier attacked us standing outside, unattended and in street clothes, enjoying a cigarette.

When we arrived at the police station I was crying and shaking. I needed answers; I needed to know my family was safe. I demanded to speak to the chief of police. My request was denied. He told me that the chief of police was not going to entertain me right now. He also told me that it was too bad that I was putting my children through this right now.

I was assured at this time by the police that the police had done everything they were legally obligated to do and all policies were followed. This was just the way the system worked. They could not interfere with the doctors’ decision or violate the man’s rights by having him supervised by police. There was nothing more they felt they should or could do.

I gave my statement as did my children and we left. This was the first time the police heard the entire story from me and my daughter. A statement was taken by my son the night of the incident while he was still in a panic.

September 21st to September 30th

We were surprised that this had not made news. I did not like how it felt like this incident was being pushed under the rug. My sister contacted the newspaper and a story was published. The stir created by the public being made aware seemed to prompt the police to take this a little more seriously and they decided that they would press charges when they previously said they would not.

Knowing that the man was nearby and given privileges to walk outside the hospital without supervision I could not take a chance that he would not just walk away and walk to our house. How long would it take for them to notice his smoke break turned into a longer absence? I guess it depends on how long he was given. Fifteen minutes is long enough to walk to my house. No one could reassure me that the possibility he knew me was investigated. We had to leave our home.

The police could not reassure me that this attack was not personal. To this date they have not interviewed the neighbours who first spoke to the man or anyone else present who may have seen or heard something that I am aware of. An officer did speak to the man a few days ago at my request and felt inclined to believe him when he said he did not know us. This offered a little relief but not enough to make me feel like my family was safe.

I now have to leave my home of 10 years because I cannot reassure my children that they can safely play outside or ride their bikes without this man recognizing them. Just having to see him in the neighbourhood would be traumatic. My daughter worries very time she sees a large man and asks often if the man is allowed to be where we are and if he is going to come back for us.

To add insult to injury we also have to pay the insurance deductible and likely have our rates go up to fix our house and replace my son’s belongings as well as being without a home of our own until we can find another house.

September 30th 2010

Today or possibly even yesterday the man was charge and released to go home with a surety. I do not know the charges or conditions as police have not given me that information. I don’t even know where he is staying so I can avoid him. He has a 10pm curfew. Does this make anyone safe?

Will the neighbours where he is staying be told that less than 2 weeks ago this man did this to us? Will anyone know what happened to our family? Residents of this community need to know that they are not protected. The only reason we survived this incident is because we did the right things to get out and get help.

October 5th 2010

I was able to pick up a copy of the conditions. The man was released; he’s got a 10pm curfew. He was also given all of our names, even the kids’ names, and our address. Now we can really never feel safe going home. They told me they wouldn’t tell him who we were or where we lived. This was recorded during my video statement.

November 10th 2010

No updates. The police have not contacted me at all. I have no idea what is happening with this case. The accused was supposed to have returned to court on the 21st of October.

I do not know what prompted this episode but I am told that the man neglected to take his medication. This tells me that he is not capable of protecting himself or others from the terrible things this illness can cause him to do. It seems as though he is not being held accountable for his actions, not the incident or for not taking his medication to prevent what happened. If this truly was caused by him not taking his medication then I feel he should be responsible for allowing this to take place. He put everyone in danger with his choice. Whether he knew what he was doing or not when he entered my home, he knew it could happen, as did the doctors, if he did not take his medication. Just agreeing to follow his treatment from now on does not erase what already happened.

A family has been terrorized. This man is protected by the mental health act, who is protecting us?

Update:

Cornwall Community Police Service Constable Brenda MacIntosh said they received a call about the incident at 8:15 p.m.
The police called in its Emergency Response Team (ERT) when it was clear the man wasn’t going to give up easily.
Six hours after he entered the house, at 12:55 a.m., the man was arrested. However, the police took him to the hospital for a mental health assessment. “Under the circumstances, there is no further action to be taken,” she said. What happens next is up to mental health professionals, MacIntosh explained.

Despite the explanation provided by MacIntosh…  a man was charged Wednesday with break and enter, mischief under $5,000 and two counts of uttering threats.

We will continue to follow this story.

Theresa Oswald Minister of Health Responds

The Honourable Andrew Swan, Minister of Justice, and Attorney General, has referred to me for response your email requesting information on the security plans related to Mr. Vince Li’s escorted walks at Selkirk Mental Health Centre (SMHC). Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with the following information.

SMHC has 12 trained full-time security officers and 1 full-time security manager on staff. Two full-time security officers are dedicated to escorting forensic patients when required under disposition orders.

All security staff members at SMHC are designated special constables with special police tactical training from Manitoba Sheriff Services. The security officers will have the authority to take forensic patients into custody and return them to the centre if required.

In order to comply with the recent Criminal Code Review Board’s ruling, the following additional safety and security measures will be in place.

· Two security officers and one clinical staff member will be escorts.

· Walks will be restricted to periods when staff numbers are at their peak.

· All risks will be assessed by the treatment team before each pass is issued.

· No pass privileges will be approved until all security measures are in place.

SMHC has also recently installed $400,000 in security equipment upgrades which include more video surveillance and access controls throughout the property. SMHC continues to implement the security plan that has been developed. Specific components of security equipment require special order and therefore, are not readily available.

I appreciate the opportunity to clarify these issues. I trust the above information has been of assistance.

Regards,
Theresa Oswald
Minister of Health