ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — A man accused of fatally stabbing a 13-year-old girl at a high school in Abbotsford, B.C., sat motionless and was unresponsive during a video appearance in court on Monday.
Gabriel Klein, 21, didn't answer when a judge asked him questions and was impassive as the Crown discussed his case. Klein could be seen on a monitor seated in a wheelchair with his head cocked to the side, wrapped in a blanket that revealed his bare shoulders.
He appeared via video link about an hour later than scheduled after initially refusing to participate. Last Wednesday, the court heard that Klein wouldn't leave his cell to stand before a judge.
Klein faces one charge each of second-degree murder and aggravated assault.
Letisha Reimer, 13, a Grade 9 student at Abbotsford Senior Secondary School, died after an attack in the school's foyer last Tuesday. A 14-year-old girl whose name is protected by a publication ban was also injured.
Police and school district officials have said a homeless man walked into the school and attacked the girls before staff confronted and restrained him. The accused did not have a connection with the girls and the attack appeared to be random, police said.
Crown attorney Rob Macgowan said Klein's unwillingness to engage with the court appears to be an intentional attempt to obstruct the legal process.
"I have no reason to believe he's incapable of speaking, so he's clearly making the conscious decision to act the way he's acting," Macgowan said outside court.
"He can't just choose not to engage with the process. He's going to have to, one way or another," he said, adding that refusing to speak doesn't necessarily mean someone is mentally unfit to stand trial.
Klein is scheduled to be back in court Wednesday. He has no lawyer, despite opportunities to receive legal advice when he was arrested and when he was approached by duty counsel before his initial court hearing, court heard.
"Once he's at the courthouse, a lawyer will be present to try to speak with him," Macgowan said about Wednesday's scheduled appearance.
"If he refuses to talk to a lawyer, well, OK, at least we tried that. That's what we're trying to do right now, make every effort to move things along."
Police have said Klein has ties to Alberta but little is known about his background.
Tanner McDougall, 21, said he attended Grade 11 with Klein at Lindsay Thurber high school in Red Deer, Alta. He remembered him as an upbeat, friendly teen. The pair shared a locker in welding class and chatted almost every day.
"He was that one guy that, he didn't care who you were, he wanted you to have a smile on your face," said McDougall, who works part time for an equipment company in Red Deer.
Students at Abbotsford Senior Secondary returned to school Monday for the first time since the attacks, with some expressing apprehension.
"I think we'll get through this," said Grade 11 student Samwel Uko, adding that he was scared about going back. "I hope the school moves on but we'll still be missing (Letisha)."
A Grade 9 student said going back to school made her fearful.
"Knowing that that happened in there and going back in there scares me inside, but you have to go back to school. It's school," she said.
"After I go back in there and see my friends it's all going to be all fine, because I know it's safe again. But (it's the) first day, so I'm scared."
The school was scheduled to open for a half day on Monday.
Students weren't the only ones who were apprehensive Monday morning. Lori O'Lane shared her concerns after dropping off her daughter, who is in Grade 12.
"You always fear for your children. You want the best for them. But if you let fear take over then they don't get to live," she said.
— With files from Chris Purdy in Edmonton, Follow @gwomand on Twitter.