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UPDATED: 95-year-old war veteran accused of murder to undergo psychiatric assessment

John Furman holds picture of himself as a World War II soldier.
Image Credit: Courtesy Greater Vernon Museum and Archives
August 22, 2013 - 2:40 PM

FAMILY OF DECEASED RELEASES NAME

UPDATE: 2:15 p.m. Aug. 22, 2013

The family of the man allegedly killed at the hands of his 95-year-old roomate at Polson Extended Care home have released his name.

He was William George May, 85, and the family says he was a resident of Vernon for a fairly long time.

May's family told the Vernon RCMP detachment they would like to have their dad's name released to the public so people "would know who it was instead of him always being referred to as the victim".

 

1:48 p.m. Aug. 21, 2013

"HIS REALITY IS DISTORTED BY THE PROGRESSION OF DEMENTIA AND ALZHEIMERS"

VERNON - It doesn't look like murder charges are going to be pursued against a 95-year-old man suffering from advanced Alzheimer's disease and dementia, but we won't know for sure until the results of a psychological assessment come in. 

This week, John Furman was arrested and charged with the second degree murder of his 85-year-old roommate in an extended care ward for individuals whose dementia is complicated by behavioural or psychological issues. Lawyers met before a judge Wednesday morning to discuss how best to move forward.

"The man's 95-years-old. He's frail. He's mentally challenged... I'm not out there to punish him," Crown lawyer Howard Pontious told reporters Wednesday. "We have to address what would be gained by pursuing the charge."

Furman is a decorated war veteran who served as a platoon sergeant in the Second World War. In recent years, he was involved in the Memory Project, a Canadian archive featuring the experiences of veterans. The U.S. government awarded him a Bronze Star medal for his outstanding service.

Pontious couldn't say if Furman has any relatives in the area, and said his power of attorney is out of the country and could not be contacted. The 95-year-old's move to the extended care ward at Vernon Jubilee Hospital was a fairly recent one, and he has no known history of aggression, Pontious said.

"My understanding is he's been living on his own with assistance up until it was determined fairly recently that he needed full time care," Pontious said. "His reality is distorted by the progression of dementia and alzheimers."

As a patient whose dementia is only expected to get worse, Furman is certified under the Mental Health Act. But in the eyes of the law, that doesn't necessarily mean he isn't criminally responsible of committing the murder. A psychiatric assessment is expected to reveal whether or not Furman can be classified as not criminally responsible by mental disorder (NCRMD).

"If we have a medical report (that) supports a finding of not criminally responible by medical disorder, then we would be in a position to send that person to the review board, and they can address the main issue in this case, which is the risk that he poses to other people," Pontious said.

If that happens, the murder charges won't likely be pursued, Pontious said. Furman would live out his days at a secured psychiatric ward where the danger of a repeat incident could be managed.

"We're certainly not interested in incarcerating this individual who I understand is a decorated war vet and otherwise excellent citizen," Pontious said.

"I've never really been in a position to prosecute someone like this. I would say that in every other case I've been involved with in 36 years, there's been a level of culpability (that's) obvious. In this case, it's pretty obvious there's virtually no culpability, because there's no capability of forming a malicious intent as far as I can tell. But I can't actually say that until I get the report," Pontious said.

Furman is being moved to the psychiatric ward in the Hillside Centre in Kamloops today. The assessment is expected to take 4-6 weeks, and Furman's next scheduled court date is September 25. Furman is being represented by Verdurmen & Company, but no official counsel has been appointed yet.

"It is (sad) because, when you don't see any culpability and you see somebody whose legacy is going to be tarnished it's harsh. And another person lost his life. It's just sad all the way around," Pontious said.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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