‘Can’t imagine the horror they went through’: man not criminally responsible for 2021 random double homicide
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Driven by voices he could neither ignore nor control, Karlton Dean Reimer stabbed strangers Dennis and Bernadette Lidgett to death in their Lorette-area home.
Reimer has admitted to stabbing the elderly couple, but in a Monday ruling jointly endorsed by Crown prosecutors and his defence lawyers, was found not criminally responsible for the March 2021 killings.
“The evidence establishes it is more likely than not that at the time of the incident he was suffering from the effects of schizophrenia and, as a result, was not capable of appreciating that his actions were wrong,” said King’s Bench Justice Shawn Greenberg.
Reimer’s case will now go before the Manitoba Criminal Code Review Board, which will determine whether he is to be confined to a mental health facility.
Court heard Reimer, 27 at the time of the killings, had been in and out of hospital for treatment of schizophrenia and has a history of abusing methamphetamine.
“We are heartbroken about learning the details of how our parents were (killed) and can’t imagine the horror they went through that night,” daughter Julie Black said in an email to the Free Press prior to Monday’s hearing.
“This tragedy should never have happened, and highlights how poor our mental health system is. The system has failed everyone affected by this tragedy and needs to be fixed to ensure this never happens again.”
Outside the downtown Winnipeg court, Black added: “It’s broken us up. We miss them immensely.”
Reimer’s parents, who were also present in court Monday, declined to speak to a reporter.
“This tragedy should never have happened, and highlights how poor our mental health system is. The system has failed everyone affected by this tragedy and needs to be fixed to ensure this never happens again.”–Victims’ daughter Julie Black
The morning of the killings, Reimer was at his Steinbach apartment with his mother when he “became paranoid that (they) were in grave danger” and tried to convince her to leave town with him, Crown attorney Andrew Slough told court, reading from an agreed statement of facts.
Reimer’s delusions escalated, with the man wrestling his mother to the floor and taking her car keys, before running out of the apartment and driving off in her vehicle.
Minutes later, Reimer called 911 and told an operator there was an injured person, “possibly dying,” in his apartment, before hanging up.
Thirteen hours later, shortly after 1 a.m., a Rural Municipality of Tache resident called 911 to say a man (later identified as Reimer) was outside his house claiming “somebody’s after him.” The resident told Reimer he would call police for him and asked him to leave.
Minutes later, Reimer appeared outside the Lidgetts’ home on River Road.
“There is a man outside trying to get into our house… He’s breaking the door in and saying someone is after him,” Dennis Lidgett, 77, told a 911 operator.
The call recording captured Lidgett confronting Reimer after he broke through the door.
“What is your problem man… Put that knife down, hey,” Lidgett could be heard saying, before Reimer cut the telephone cord and the line went dead.
With a knife he took from the home’s kitchen, Reimer stabbed Lidgett in the chest and shoulder. Reimer then moved to the dining room, where he stabbed 73-year-old Bernadette Lidgett several times in the chest, head and arm, cutting off one of her fingers.
“There is a man outside trying to get into our house… He’s breaking the door in and saying someone is after him.”–Dennis Lidgett’s call to 911
Reimer fled in his mother’s car, abandoning it less than half an hour later, after he got stuck in a ditch near the junction of Highways 210 and 59.
Reimer ran into the path of an oncoming ambulance, forcing the driver to veer off the road to avoid hitting him. RCMP were called and Reimer was arrested minutes later.
Psychiatric evaluations provided by both the Crown and defence concluded Reimer was not criminally responsible for his actions. Reimer “felt morally justified in his actions due to a psychiatric disorder,” said a report provided by the Crown.
“We are of the view that the finding is a reliable one,” Slough said.
Court heard Reimer’s earliest psychotic episodes were meth-induced, with later episodes clearly tied to his schizophrenia diagnosis. Reimer, court was told, had not been using drugs or alcohol in the days prior to the killings.
Reimer’s “tragic history” includes being physically and sexually abused on a regular basis by an older family member, beginning when he was three or four years old, Greenberg said.
“It is difficult to imagine (what impact) that type of experience in childhood could have as an adult,” the judge said, noting Reimer’s history includes multiple incidents of self-harm and suicide attempts.
Witness accounts of Reimer’s mental state around the time of the killings “couldn’t be more clear” he was suffering from hallucinations, said defence lawyer Brittney Hoyt.
In a statement to police following his arrest, Reimer said voices told him he had to kill the Lidgetts “if you want us (the voices) to leave you alone,” Hoyt said.
Journals seized by police detailed Reimer’s fragile mental state.
“The voices are back, they are hard to ignore, they watch me all the time, the TV is talking to me,” he wrote in one passage.
Court heard Reimer continues to suffer from hallucinations and remains uncertain whether the voices that told him to kill the Lidgetts “were real.”
At the time of the slayings, Reimer was on bail for property offences involving four victims (two of them his parents).
“The voices are back, they are hard to ignore, they watch me all the time, the TV is talking to me.”–Karlton Dean Reimer
Details of the alleged offences weren’t disclosed at a September 2020 bail hearing, at which time concerns were raised about Reimer’s willingness to abstain from drugs and take his schizophrenia medication.
“The matters on the docket don’t look all that serious, but I can tell you there is significant background that I have discussed with RCMP in regards to Mr. Reimer, his mental health issues, as well as his co-occurring substance abuse issues — and they all need to be addressed in order to reduce his risk in the community, but also to provide some protection for his parents,” Crown attorney Kristee Logan told provincial court Judge Brent Stewart.
“Essentially, we want to make sure Mr. Reimer is taking his medication,” Logan said.
“I just want to make it clear to Mr. Reimer that these conditions are very serious, and if he is not complying, then he is going to find himself in the (Winnipeg) Remand Centre or at risk of harming himself or someone else.”
Reimer will appear before the Criminal Code Review Board within the next 90 days. He remains in custody.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.
Updated on Monday, November 21, 2022 7:17 PM CST: Typo fixed