VERNON, B.C. - Prosecutors in British Columbia have stayed a charge of second-degree murder against a 95-year-old dementia patient in the north Okanagan community of Vernon.
The province's Criminal Justice Branch announced Wednesday it was not in the public's interest to prosecute John "Jack" Daymouth Furman because of his physical health and advanced dementia, adding "steps have been taken to address any safety risk he might present."
Furman, who served during the Second World War, was accused of killing William "Bill" May, his 85-year-old roommate at a Vernon residential-care facility on Aug. 18.
"Mr. Furman is a 95-year-old man with severe dementia," said Crown lawyer Stephen Lawhead. "All of the available medical and psychiatric information indicates he is unable to stand trial, and that there is no reasonable chance he will ever be fit."
According to a statement issued by the Criminal Justice Branch, prosecutors apply a two-part test when assessing whether a criminal case will proceed: They must be satisfied there's a substantial likelihood of conviction, and the prosecution must be in the public interest.
The branch said Furman remains confused and disoriented about his current circumstances, as well as the circumstances surrounding the incident. It also says he is unlikely to improve.
Lawhead said Furman remains at a Kamloops psychiatric facility and will be for an undetermined time.
"I think care-home homicides are unusual, but they do happen and usually they involve people with dementia who are elderly, so in that sense it is not that unusual. It has happened before," he said.
Staff at the residential-care facility first called police at about 11 p.m. They reported Furman had assaulted May, but by the time officers and ambulance personnel arrived, May was dead, the justice branch said.
Furman was admitted to the facility just 10 days earlier.
"On the evidence available to Crown counsel, it appeared that the assault occurred while Mr. Furman was in a delusional state arising out of his dementia," the branch said.
About a week after May's death, his sons spoke to reporters and expressed sympathy for Furman. They noted that their father had experienced several physical confrontations during his two years at the care home.
"We also have no hard feelings for the resident who committed the assault,'' Paul May told reporters at the time, noting the incident was a tragedy for all involved. "He could not have been motivated by any personal animosity towards Bill.''
Paul May said his father was the son of a First World War veteran, a brother to three siblings, a father to three sons, and a husband for 57 years.
He said he was also a local businessman who worked hard, provided well for his family and was generous but not frivolous. In fact, Paul May said, his father started a local glass plant in 1969, providing jobs and opportunities to the community before retiring in 1989.
According to the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives, Furman was born in Calgary, Alta., on Sept. 21, 1918, enlisted in the King's Own Rifles March 10, 1941, and volunteered for the First Special Service Force months later.
German soldiers named it the "Devil's Brigade" or "Black Devils" because members of the joint Canadian-U.S. military unit smeared their faces with black boot polish for night operations near Anzio, Italy in 1944, according to the museum's website.
It also states Furman was discharged from the military in 1946, married a childhood sweetheart from Lethbridge, moved to Vernon in 1971 and was awarded a Bronze Star by the U.S. government in March 2007. (CKIZ, The Canadian Press)
--by Keven Drews in Vancouver