Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Student found not criminally responsible for killing her grandmother

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SHE was a vibrant young university student with an active social life and no criminal history or mental-health issues.

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 bipolar 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 that won't include any prison time.

The woman, who can't be named under a court order that also covers the victim's name, was found not criminally responsible for the killing during a brief court hearing Friday morning.

Crown and defence lawyers relied on an expert medical opinion from Dr. Stanley Yaren that the accused was mentally ill at the time of the unprovoked September 2011 attack and couldn't appreciate or understand her actions. As a result, she will be put in the care of the provincial Review Board.

But she 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, Yaren said.

"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 lifelong 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 a 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 in hospital of upper-body injuries. The cause of death was "blunt-force trauma."

After being arrested, the young killer gave a bizarre, 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, Yaren said.

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.

"Without treatment, the risk of a relapse is certain," Yaren warned.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 15, 2012 A12

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