Dr. Marcel Hediger has treated Schoenborn for three years and told an annual B.C. Review Board hearing Thursday the 46-year-old has made enough clinical progress to be considered for escorted leaves.
A Crown lawyer at the hearing — held at a psychiatric hospital east of Vancouver — grilled but did not sway Hediger on his rationale.
"You still regard Mr. Schoenborn as posing a significant risk of causing physical or psychological harm, right at this point in time, despite treatment?" asked Wendy Dawson.
"I do, yes," Hediger said, later adding "we do take public safety into account.
"I do think the risk currently is different than when he is mentally ill and taking alcohol."
The director of the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital supports the plan.
Schoenborn wore a red-plaid shirt, rimmed glasses and bounced in his chair throughout the hearing. He was noticeably heavier than the gaunt man depicted in photographs after the slayings and a 10-day manhunt through forest and mountains before his April 2008 arrest.
Dawson asked Hediger, who was defending the assessment made by a team of experts, about the role anger played in the killings.
"That has specifically been a concern and a challenge for myself," Hediger said. "He has consistently denied that anger played a role in the index offence."
Schoenborn stabbed his 10-year-old daughter, Kaitlynne, and smothered his sons, eight-year-old Max and five-year-old Cordon, in their Merritt, B.C., home. During a trial in 2009 he explained he was trying to protect them from an delusional threat of sexual abuse, while the Crown labelled it an act of revenge against his wife.
A judge said he was suffering psychosis and found him not criminally responsible for their deaths because of a mental disorder.
The hearing was told his current diagnosis is delusional disorder and he suffers from paranoid personality traits.
One year ago, Hediger told the board he was too concerned to allow Schoenborn into the unpredictable outside world. But on Thursday he said the man has "significantly improved."
The psychiatrist said he's better able to manage his anger and has gained insights into his mental illness and need for treatment.
The board heard Schoenborn was violently assaulted last September by another patient who called him a child killer, but that he didn't retaliate.
Dawson, however, told the hearing that she counted 11 instances of verbal or physical altercations, more often triggered by "minor" situations. One example occurred when another patient blew his nose too close to Schoenborn.
She tallied at least 40 instances since the man was institutionalized in April 2010 and said the Crown opposed the release. It would be difficult for him to deal with strangers away from the hospital setting, she said.
Schoenborn has also refusal any programming outside of anger-management therapy and chaplain visits, and he spends upwards of 16 hours daily sleeping, the board heard.
Stacy Galt, a cousin of the children's mother, told reporters that Darcie Clarke is still petrified that her ex-husband will attack her if he's released.
"He still has anger issues," she said. "He got away with this murder, as far as I'm concerned. He killed the children out of anger, it was a crime of passion and he should be in jail."
She and another family friend, Dave Teixeira, said they were shocked about the practical application of a federal bill toughening treatment of not-criminally-responsible offenders. The law came into effect after the last hearing.
The new legislation provides leeway for the board to extend the period between hearings from one to three years, but the Crown must apply to the Supreme Court for a "high-risk accused" designation, said Neil MacKenzie, B.C. criminal justice branch spokesman.
He said the branch's position is that the legislation can be applied retroactively, but it's still considering whether to seek the designation for Schoenborn.
A continuation date for the hearing has yet to be determined.
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