‘White-hot angry’: Eby vows investigation of Chinatown stabbing suspect’s release

'White-hot angry': Eby vows investigation of Chinatown stabbing suspect's release
British Columbia Premier David Eby says he is

British Columbia Premier David Eby says he is “white-hot” angry over the day release of a man from a forensic psychiatric hospital before he was arrested for a triple stabbing in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

Eby promised “an independent person” will look into the specifics of the case, including the decision-making process, and said that work had already begun.

“I am white hot angry that this person was released unaccompanied into the community to have a devastating impact on all the hard work of all of these community members,” the premier said Tuesday in Surrey.

Blair Evan Donnelly, 64, has been charged with three counts of aggravated assault and remains in custody after Sunday’s attack at the Light Up Chinatown! festival, which left three people with severe wounds.

Donnelly was found not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder for stabbing his teenage daughter to death in 2006 and sent to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam, B.C.

In 2009 he committed another stabbing while on a day pass, Eby said.

The hospital is a 190-bed secure facility that treats people who have been found not criminally responsible for a crime or unfit to stand trial due to a mental disorder.

After a judge finds an accused is not criminally responsible or unfit for trial, it’s the B.C. Review Board that is responsible for deciding on the person’s care including where they will stay and under what conditions they could be allowed out in public.

Each case is reviewed periodically until the review board either discharges the person completely, or finds that a previously unfit accused is now fit to stand trial and should be returned to court.

Blaine Bray, the executive director for forensic psychiatric services, which manages the hospital, said in a statement that “public safety is always at the forefront of the hospital’s decision making.”

Bray said he couldn’t comment on this specific case but that generally prior to granting time in the community, the treatment team considers facts such as the patient’s progress, and mental status.

He said a review process is followed, which requires the approval of the B.C. Review Board and its program and privileges committee.

Public statistics from the review board show that the total number of accused under the board’s jurisdiction has declined over the last four years and sat at 256 people in 2021-2022. There are slightly more accused in custody at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital than under supervision in the community.

In 2008, a B.C. Supreme Court judge said Donnelly, a devotedly religious man, believed that God wanted him to murder his wife and daughter and interpreted multiple innocuous events leading up to the girl’s killing as signs. They included his dog playing with a certain chew toy, and a friend choking on a cup of tea.

He was sent to the Coquitlam facility, but Eby said he was released in 2009, attacked someone else, then was released again before Sunday’s attack.

“I cannot fathom how someone who murdered his daughter was released in 2009, went out and stabbed somebody else, would then be released again, unaccompanied, somehow able to go out and buy a knife, go to Chinatown and stab three people. How is that possible?” Eby said.

Eby said he wants to assure the victims, their families and all others affected by the stabbing that his government will determine how it happened and do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

A man and woman in their 60s and a woman in her 20s suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries in Sunday’s attack.

In a statement, the festival organizers say Light Up Chinatown! “served as a beautiful and vibrant celebration” of the neighbourhood.

“The senseless act that transpired is nothing short of devastating and heartbreaking.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 12, 2023.

Ashley Joannou, The Canadian PressAshley Joannou, The Canadian Press

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