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Judge orders mental assessment after man admits to killing ex-girlfriend

Deanne Wheeler, 26, was found dead in Christopher Butler's apartment Dec. 30, 2014
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August 06, 2015 - 12:25 PM

KAMLOOPS - It's now up to forensic psychiatrists to prepare a report which will determine if a man who admitted to killing his ex-girlfriend is guilty of the crime or not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder. 

Today, Aug. 6, Justice Keith Bracken ordered a mental assessment after noting Christopher Frank Butler pleaded guilty to killing Deanne Wheeler, 26. Butler said he did it under the belief she was a demon and not as a jealous ex-lover, as the Crown alleges. 

Acting as his own lawyer, Butler told the court yesterday, Aug. 5, he believed Wheeler was possessed by Satan and was a demon that needed to die. After Wheeler came to the accused's Cherry Avenue apartment on Dec. 30, 2014, he strangled her with a rope saw, hit her in the head with a rock and stabbed her in the back.

Bracken had three options for Butler’s plea: Accept it, strike it and order a trial, or order a mental assessment of the accused.

Crown counsellor Alex Janse alleges Butler commited the murder out of jealousy. To support her theory, she read out several text messages the accused sent Wheeler in the month leading up to her death. The texts ranged from expressing sadness over the end of a relationship, to angry, accusatory and jealous.

Prior to Butler's guilty plea, a psychiatrist assessed the accused and found him mentally fit to stand trial. Bracken said coincidentally the reviewing psychiatrist knew Butler as a previous patient before Wheeler’s death.

In his report, Bracken said the psychiatrist “noted the accused had a well established diagnosis of bipolar disorder” with patterns of mood disturbance and delusional thought. The psychiatrist also determined Butler had pathology in his personality to be “manipulative and deceitful" and said further mental assessments would be prudent in the future. 

Bracken said prior to killing Wheeler, Butler made a video in which he stated "I believe the one known as Deanne Wheeler is coming to kill me. I know this sounds preposterous but I will explain later."

Over the course of his appearances in provincial and supreme courts Butler commented on religion and possession, and said while he was responsible for the assault on Wheeler which caused her death, he was not responsible because a mental disorder caused him to do it.  

Intent is an element to prove the crime of murder. Bracken said an assessment was never conducted on Butler because the accused never put intent into question. Crown is permitted to order such assessment if there is doubt on intent, but given the amount of evidence against Butler, Janse never requested one.

Before his return to court at the end of the month, Butler will transfer from the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre to a psychiatric centre. Bracken ordered the court transcripts containing Butler's statements in court to be sent to psychiatrists along with the evidence against the accused. 

Based on findings from forensic psychiatrists, Butler could be found not criminally responsible for killing Wheeler. If psychiatrists determine he was not suffering from a mental illness at the time of her death, the guilty plea could stand with sentencing to follow.

Butler will return to court Aug. 31 to hear results of the assessment.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Glynn Brothen at gbrothen@infonews.ca, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

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