It’s a verdict that speaks to the darkest struggles of the human mind — and can challenge observers reeling from the suddeness of a crime. Here, a small selection of some of the Manitoba cases where the defendant was found not criminally responsible, both before Vince Li and beyond.
1991: Gripped by the belief that her four-year-old son Skylar was possessed by Adolf Hitler, Winnipeg’s Donna Lynn Trueman grabs a broom handle and slays her own son. Five months later, she became the first Canadian to be found not criminally responsible for the killing. The verdict was a new legal option that had recently replaced the old (and famous) term, "not guilty by reason of insanity."
Trueman was placed on medication and released into her parents’ care. She has never committed another crime. In a brief telephone conversation with the Free Press in 2009, her mother described as daughter as "fine."
2000: In the ashes of a Niverville-area house fire, police discovered the body of 39-year-old Candis Moizer. Her stepson, 17-year-old Earl Joey Wiebe, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. At trial, experts testified that a childhood spent watching his biological mother be raped and beaten had shattered the young man’s mind. He was found not criminally responsible, and sent to the Selkirk Mental Health Centre.
But Wiebe’s story did not end there. In 2006, he escaped from care and was eventually apprehended in British Columbia; in 2009, he was slammed with a number of criminal charges after setting fire to his room. The resulting investigation revealed he had started a relationship with a nursing student hired to escort him, and smuggled a knife, booze and pills into the centre.
In 2010, health and justice officials begged for him to be held at the Winnipeg Remand Centre while the criminal charges proceeded, saying he was too dangerous to stay in care in Selkirk. His future remains unknown; the province would like to ship him to out of province to a high-security forensic facility, after the latest criminal proceedings are completed. "I don’t fear Selkirk. Selkirk fears me," he once told a hearing.
2009: In an unprovoked attack, 27-year-old Darryl Lawrence Monkman grabbed a knife and brutally slayed his cousin, 38-year-old Kelly Godfrey, as both of the men’s spouses watched in horror. At the time, Monkman was suffering from psychotic delusions that Godfrey had a microchip implanted in his brain and was planning to kill him; he also believed that rat poison was dripping from the ceilings in Godfrey’s home. "I was just protecting my family," he told arresting officers.
As trial, defence lawyers argued the 27-year-old man had fallen through the cracks: only weeks before the killing, he had been discharged from a Winnipeg psychiatric facility after being declared not to be an immediate danger to himself or others. He was found not criminally responsible for Godfrey’s death and taken into mental-health care, where he responded well to treatment. He will be subject to annual reviews for the rest of his life.
2010: Somehow — it’s still unclear exactly how — a 23-year-old Montreal man sneaked into the 17 Wing air force base, stole an army F-150 truck and drove it down the runway at Richardson International Airport. Luckily, the bizarre incident didn’t disrupt any air traffic, and the man was arrested without incident. In court, a judge found the man, who had a history of mental illness, didn’t know right from wrong when he embarked on the misadventure. The incident joined a list of others back in Quebec for which the man was found not criminally responsible.