She was a vibrant young university student with an active social life and no criminal or mental health history.
But something "snapped" inside the 19-year-old woman’s head last fall -- and the result was a catastrophic crime that left her beloved 84-year-old grandmother dead.
Doctors call it a psychotic break, the result of previously undiagnosed and untreated bi-polar disorder. Now 15 months have passed since the slaying in St. Vital and the young killer is already out of hospital, back with her family and facing a bright future which will not include any prison time.
The woman – who can’t be named under a court order which also covers the name of the victim – was found not criminally responsible for the killing during a brief court hearing Friday morning.
Crown and defence lawyers both relied on an expert medical opinion from Dr. Stanley Yaren that the accused was suffering from mental illness at the time of the unprovoked September 2011 attack and couldn’t appreciate or understand her actions. As a result, she will be placed under care of the provincial Review Board.
However, the woman is already back in the community under a rigorous treatment plan and likely poses no further risk to society if she continues to be medicated and closely monitored, according to Yaren.
"She’s extremely fortunate to have such a caring and supportive family, even with the sadness of their loss," Yaren told court Friday. "Her condition is one which will likely require life-long medication... in order to prevent a relapse of this condition."
Police rushed to the well-tended home on Pine Bluff Road after being called by family member who discovered the gravely injured senior. Also on the scene was the granddaughter, who was quickly charged with second-degree murder. The victim died at hospital after she was rushed there with upper-body injuries. The cause of death was "blunt force trauma."
After being arrested, the young killer gave a bizarre and rambling videotaped statement to police.
"She was at times elated, singing, dancing, gesturing and fiddling with her clothing," said Yaren. The woman would alternate between a "child-like" voice and a "robotic" one and was confused about who the police were and why she was in custody.
"She didn’t seem to have any awareness of the reality of her situation," he said. Police seized copies of her journal which show a rapid descent into madness. Only days earlier she was taking coherent, detailed notes from her classes at the University of Manitoba. But the more recent pages were filled with senseless diatribes, sketches and an obsession with numbers, court was told.
The woman responded "exceptionally well" to medical treatment, specifically anti-psychotic medication. It was only a few weeks before she began to understand the horror of what she’d done, said Yaren.
In the past few months, doctors have been easing her back into the community by varying her bail order to allow for time at home with family. She has been staying full-time with loved ones in recent weeks, and Yaren told court that will likely continue after an upcoming Review Board hearing to determine the next step. Her future plans include returning to university. It’s unlikely she would be ordered to spend any further time in a mental health facility, he said.
"Without treatment, the risk of a relapse is certain," Yaren warned.