The man charged with stabbing Letisha Reimer, 13, to death in 2016 and seriously injuring a second girl will be proceeding through his trial on a defence of not criminally responsible due to mental disorder, the court heard Monday.
The trial for Gabriel Klein – charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault in relation to the attack at Abbotsford Senior Secondary – opened Monday morning in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.
In his opening statements, Crown lawyer Rob Macgowan said there is no disputing that Klein, 24, was the one who stabbed Reimer and a 14-year-old girl (who cannot be named due to a publication ban) on Nov. 1, 2016 in the school rotunda.
“This is a case where certain things are not in dispute,” Macgowan said.
He said the central issue for Crown will be proving Klein’s intent in each of the charges.
Macgowan said an autopsy showed that Reimer had been stabbed 14 times.
He said the other girl had been stabbed four times – on her right eyelid, left shoulder, right ring finger and right chest. She spent 10 days in hospital and later that month required surgery for her shoulder injury.
She was also diagnosed with “acute stress disorder,” he said.
Macgowan laid out Klein’s activities in the two days preceding the stabbing.
He said that, on the afternoon of Oct. 30, Klein was brought to the office of the Huntingdon border crossing in Abbotsford after American authorities detained him when he was found illegally crossing the border.
That evening, he went to Abbotsford Regional Hospital, where he spoke to an emergency room doctor and a social worker. He was then directed to the Lookout homeless shelter on Riverside Road in Abbotsford, where he stayed overnight on Oct. 30 and 31.
On Oct. 31, he used the public library that adjoins Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
On the morning of Nov. 1, Macgown said Klein met with an income assistance worker at the shelter, and then left with all his belongings.
Klein’s next stop was at the liquor store in the Sumas Village strip mall on Sumas Way, where he stole two bottles of alcohol, Macgowan said.
He said that, just after noon, Klein went to the Cabela’s store on McCallum Road and shoplifted a Buck hunting knife, and then proceeded to Abbotsford Senior Secondary, entering through the public library at about 2 p.m.
The attack occurred shortly afterward, with police receiving multiple 911 calls from the school at 2:06 p.m.
Macgown said evidence obtained from the scene included the hunting knife and sheath, a black jacket and printouts with Google Map directions.
Other evidence includes a six-second video shot by a student at the school. The footage, played in court Monday morning, shows Reimer being stabbed as she screams.
Macgowan said the student who shot it was on the third floor of the school, overlooking the rotunda, when he heard screaming. He thought someone had fallen or there was a fight. He had his phone in his hand with the app Snapchat open, and shot a quick video.
Afterwards, the student sent the footage to a friend for safe-keeping, and never intended for it to be released publicly, Macgowan said. But that video was widely circulated on social media.
Other video footage – from various locations that Klein had attended – was also played in court.
Macgowan said the witnesses slated to testify over the coming weeks include Lookout staff, liquor store and Cabela’s employees, hospital staff, police and corrections officers, psychiatrists, and students and staff from the school.
The girl who was seriously injured will not testify on the stand, but her video-recorded statement will be played in court, Macgowan said.
The first witness to take the stand Monday was Krysten Montague, a border services officer who was working at the front counter of the Huntingdon crossing on Oct. 30, 2016, when Klein was brought in by U.S. border guards.
She said that Klein told her he had been in Vancouver staying with cousins and ended up in Abbotsford because he had previously worked at cleaning a chicken coop there.
Montague said Klein told her had been walking around farms in the area to see if any work was available and accidentally crossed into the U.S. in an unmarked area.
She said Klein told her that he was planning to take a bus back into Vancouver but he didn’t have any money. She said she offered to contact homeless shelters in the area, but he declined.
Montague said Klein appropriately answered all her questions, made good eye contact, was well-spoken and didn’t seem nervous.
She released Klein, and, after she got off work at 3 p.m. she spotted him walking north near the Costco on Sumas Way.
Montague later recognized Klein in a photo of him released by police after the stabbing. She informed her managers, who then contacted police.
Klein’s lawyer, Martin Peters, is expected to cross examine Montague Monday afternoon.
Klein, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was found not fit to stand trial on three separate occasions before the BC Review Board ruled in January of this year that he was now fit.
The trial is scheduled to continue until late December.