A Middle Sackville teenager whose family had been trying to get him psychiatric help has been found not criminally responsible for second-degree murder because of a mental disorder.
Judge Pam Williams made the finding today in Halifax youth court, accepting an expert opinion from a psychiatrist that the teen was psychotic when he killed a woman Feb. 5.
Joyann Wright, 49, died at her house on Hewer Crescent in Middle Sackville. She suffered multiple stab wounds and blunt-force injuries.
The name of the accused, who turned 18 last month, is banned from publication under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
The judge remanded him back to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, where he’s been in custody and under doctors’ care since the day of the killing.
The Nova Scotia Criminal Code Review Board will meet within 45 days to decide what should be done with the teen.
The board has the power to detain him at a psychiatric facility until he no longer poses “a significant threat to the safety of the public.” It also could give him an absolute discharge or a conditional discharge.
A 20-page agreed statement of facts about the murder and the teenager’s medical history was presented to the judge but was not read out in court or made available to the media after the 90-minute hearing.
A few details could be gleaned from the discussions in court, however. The teen was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the killing; some of Wright’s injuries were to her throat and head; and investigators seized at least three knives.
Dr. Aileen Brunet, a psychiatrist who examined the teenager at the hospital, testified that it appears he began having psychotic episodes late last year.
“In my opinion, at the time of the offence he was psychotic,” Brunet told the court. “As a result of the psychosis, he was not able to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions.”
The teen continued to exhibit psychotic symptoms for several weeks after the killing, the doctor said.
“This is a complete and total tragedy,” defence lawyer Stan MacDonald told the court.
The teenager was naked when he was arrested Feb. 5 on Sackville Drive, not far from Hewer Crescent. Police believe he was involved in a pair of motor-vehicle collisions and threw himself in front of a car, all in an attempt to kill himself.
Sources told The Chronicle Herald in February that the teen’s family had been trying for months to get him psychiatric assistance.
His family took him to the IWK twice in the days leading up to the killing and finally got him an appointment for an assessment at the hospital for Feb. 8, the sources said.