BC Supreme Court rules man not criminally responsible in 2016 Chemainus murder


Seven years after Chemainus man Derek Descoteau was stabbed to death, the BC Supreme Court has found his killer not criminally responsible because he suffers from serious mental illnesses including schizophrenia.

Family and friends of the 20-year-old man stormed out of a Duncan courtroom after Justice Lisa Warren determined Colin John was not criminally responsible for the 2016 death, following expert testimony from two forensic psychiatrists.

“We’re really upset. This is not the outcome that we wanted. We have been tormented for nearly seven years and today we wanted justice,” said Brenda Smith, mother of Descoteau.

READ MORE: Crown’s case in murder trial of a Chemainus man wraps

In May 2016, John stabbed Descoteau and his girlfriend Janelle Guyatt several times while inside their home. Guyatt survived after several surgeries.

In 2018, a mental assessment was requested for John and in 2019 he was found to be mentally unfit to stand trial. John also pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and aggravated assault in 2021.

A review of his mental capability found that John was showing signs of schizophrenia, along with other mental health issues, before, during and after the murder. The judge also noted that John’s family has a history of schizophrenia.

Forensic psychiatrists also submitted that a woman known by John disclosed to him that she had been sexually assaulted, which may have been a factor leading him to attack Descoteau and his girlfriend on May 20, 2016.

On the day of the murder, John saw Descoteau entering his Chemainus home with Guyatt and believed that Descoteau was going to sexually assault her, court heard.

Warren said that John heard voices in his head and felt that he needed to save Guyatt.

The court also found at the time of the crime he was not capable of morally discerning right from wrong. It was noted that once he learned Descoteau died from his injuries, he showed remorse.

READ MORE: Judge rules man accused of 2016 fatal stabbing in Cheaminus mentally unfit to continue to stand trial

Defense attorneys for John noted the difficult decision that the court came to.

“A difficult trial for the family to watch. Many lives are affected by this,” said Scott Sheets.

The family for Descoteau are going to push for a retrial and they say will be meeting with Crown next week.

“We’re not giving up, no…round two starts today,” said Smith.

The court’s decision will now be forwarded to a review board to determine next steps.

Family members of Derek Descoteau stand in a row outside the Duncan Law Courts after Descoteau’s killer Colin John was found not criminally responsible for murder. March 20, 2023.

Oli Herrera

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