April 19, 2014 - 4:29 PM
CALGARY - The families of the victims stabbed to death at a party in Calgary on Tuesday have joined together to issue a statement about the horrific crime.
Matthew de Grood faces five counts of first-degree murder in what police are calling the worst mass murder in the city's history.
"In this time of tremendous grief and tragedy, our five families have come together as one. We know the public and media are searching to understand how this could have happened, as are we. But we also know that these answers will take time and nothing will come as quickly as we want or need.
"As a group, we have come together to support one another, and in time, start the healing process. First, we must say goodbye to our loved ones, which includes memorials and funerals over the coming days and weeks.
"We ask that in this time of unimaginable sorrow, you respect our privacy and give us the breathing room we need to come to grips with what has happened to Josh, Zack, Kaiti, Jordan and Lawrence.
"We are not at a point where we are ready to speak publicly to any media outlet or reporter. We can assure you that when the time comes we, as a group, will do so. This will be co-ordinated through the Public Affairs/Media Relations Unit of the Calgary Police Service.
"We ask that you extend this privacy to the witnesses and close friends of our beloved five, as they, too, are suffering unimaginable grief. When the time comes for them to speak out, they will do it with the help of the CPS.
"Over the coming days, we will be releasing details of various funds where donations can be made to support the numerous bursaries and scholarships being planned to remember our loved ones.
"We wish to extend our thanks to Calgarians, and others who have expressed their condolences for our loss. We know you are grieving, too, and we truly appreciate the support."
Police have said de Grood finished his late shift at a grocery store before going to a house party which was being held to celebrate the last day of classes at the University of Calgary. He was an invited guest and mingled with some of the 20 people there before he allegedly grabbed a large knife and started attacking people one by one.
Police said a significant part of their investigation will focus on whether de Grood was suffering from mental illness and officers will be looking into any communications he had with people before the slayings.
The Calgary Herald reported that de Grood sent disjointed and confusing text messages to his family before showing up at the party. The newspaper quoted an unnamed officer close to de Grood's father as saying the family was worried he might commit suicide that night. His mother called police and his father went looking for him, the source said. The story also said de Grood had mental health problems in high school.
Fay said he knows nothing of any texts and had not heard that his client had been mentally unstable in the past. He said de Grood's family doesn't agree with a lot of things being reported in the news media, but did not elaborate.
De Grood remains in custody at a psychiatric centre. Fay had earlier indicated a psychiatric assessment had been ordered, but clarified Thursday that that order had yet to be given. He said he expected the Crown would request one when de Grood appears in court Tuesday.
Fay said he has met with de Grood, but the man's parents have yet to see their son.
"He appeared distraught. He appeared upset. He appeared fearful. All those things that one would expect under those circumstances," Fay said of his client.
Police spokesman Kevin Brookwell said any messages de Grood sent before the party would form "a significant part of this investigation." He told reporters that if any texts exist, they might help explain the suspect's state of mind and also provide clues to a motive.
Investigators have said it appears there was nothing — no grudge or vendetta — that might have provoked the attack. They aren't even sure de Grood knew the victims.
Brookwell said officers are still interviewing witnesses and piecing together what happened at the party. He said it's not known how one person managed to kill five people in a crowded home and escape. De Grood was taken into custody about 40 minutes after the attack, with the help of a police dog.
"There's going to be a lot of guessing and everybody's trying to get that answer as to how this possibly could have happened and did no one intervene?" said Brookwell. "It is quite possible that people didn't even know it was going on, people froze."
The victims have been identified as Zackariah Rathwell, 21, Jordan Segura, 22, Josh Hunter, 23, Kaitlin Perras, 23, and Lawrence Hong, 27.
Two Edmonton prosecutors have been assigned to the case to address any perception of bias because of de Grood's father. Brookwell dismissed any notion that an outside police force should also be brought in.
He said police made a speedy arrest and charges had been laid by the end of the day.
The City of Calgary has lowered all flags at its municipal buildings and said they will remain at half-mast until sunset on the day of the last victim's funeral.
The first service has been set for Segura on Monday.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2014