GROSSMITH MURDER TRIAL TO FOCUS ON EXTENT OF MENTAL DISORDER AND CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY
KELOWNA - On Sept. 13, 2012, Conor Frederick Grossmith, then 24, ate dinner and played cards with his parents just a few hours before he hit his mother in the head with a hammer as she lay in her bed. Six days later, she was dead.
Why he did it may never be known, but that is now the sole issue at his second-degree murder trial that began today in Kelowna Supreme Court. The trial was originally scheduled to last up to five weeks but Crown now say the matter should be resolved in roughly five days to determine if he is not criminally responsible due to mental disorder. That finding would mean mental health treatment instead of imprisonment and criminal sanction.
"My son is psychotic and he's just hit my wife with a hammer," Conor's father, Harry Grossmith, told the 911 dispatcher that night. "My wife's head is smashed in."
Conor Grossmith, who suffers from bipolar disorder, was "severely intoxicated" when he took a hammer from the tool box in their family garage on Mission Springs Drive and went upstairs to the bedroom where his mother, Kathleen Gilchrist, 57, was sleeping.
Harry Grossmith heard what sounded like two "kicking sounds" from upstairs and shouted at his son to stop hitting the walls as he was known to do. When he got no response, he went upstairs to investigate and saw his son coming out of his wife's bedroom.
"Mr. Grossmith immediately felt that something terrible had happened as he saw what appeared to be a red spray on the wall of his wife's bedroom and he noticed that his son was carrying a hammer in his right hand," said Crown lawyer Frank Dubenski. "His wife was lying on her left side on the bed. She appeared motionless and was breathing heavily. He saw that his wife had a severe wound to her head."
Harry Grossmith described his son as having "a fierce or almost demonic look on his face as if it was someone who was not his son," he told Justice Alison Beames Monday.
Fearing for his life, Harry Grossmith grabbed a hold of his son.
"(Harry) was able to push (Conor) down the stairs in the hope that (he) would hit his head and would be knocked out," Dubenski said. "After being pushed down the stairs Conor appeared stunned and his father fled to the master bedroom to... call police."
The recording made with 911 dispatch was played in court and is a chilling glimpse into how close Conor and his father were. As he pleaded with his son to calm down, Conor's muffled voice can be heard speaking in the background. Harry tried to calm his son, reminding him they had a golf game scheduled.
"I'm waiting for him to try and break down the door," Harry told the operator. "He's very dangerous."
Harry told dispatch he had no idea what caused his son to get so upset but confirmed that he had been drinking alcohol.
Police arrested Grossmith outside his home shortly after 9 p.m.
"The paramedics... observed an extensive amount of blood coming from a large open wound in her head," Dubenski said. "Brain matter, including bone fragments, was protruding from the right frontal part of the skill in the approximate size of a softball. Ms. Gilchrist was unresponsive."
During the arrest and the first day of trial, Conor Grossmith displayed little emotion. He would close his eyes for long periods of time almost as though he were sleeping.
Police found DNA belonging to Gilchrist on the hands and body of Conor, on the walls, bed and floor of the room in which she was found, on the hammer recovered near the bed and also on a wooden sculpture found near the front door of the house.
While being held at the RCMP detachment in Kelowna, Grossmith may also have "cleaned the blood from his hands using his mouth and saliva," according to Dubenski.
"Harry would acknowledge that his son Conor loved his mother," Grossmith's lawyer Joe Gordon told reporters outside court. "If Kathleen were here today she would probably want to see (him found not criminally responsible due to mental disorder). The fact is, he failed to appreciate that what he did was wrong in the legal sense. That's what the psychiatrist says so... that's what we're hoping the disposition will be."
If found not guilty due to mental disorder, Grossmith could be confined to a psychiatric hospital for the rest of his life.
"I think if you were to speak with the family, they would support that," Gordon said.
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