Psychiatrist says man who admitted to killing kids didnt show mental illness

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KAMLOOPS, B.C. - A psychiatrist who interviewed a man who admitted to killing his three children in Merritt, B.C., has told the court he saw no signs of mental illness.
Dr. Ron Chale was called by the Crown to testify at the first-degree murder trial of Allan Schoenborn in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday. Chale was one of the first experts to examine Schoenborn after he was arrested for the April 2008 killings.
Chale said he was asked to determine if Schoenborn could be transferred from a hospital to a correctional centre, and if he was mentally ill or suicidal. Schoenborn was emaciated and frostbitten after his arrest and had suffered severe self-inflicted lacerations to his forearms.
Chale said he spoke with Schoenborn once, as well as the doctors and nurses who cared for him.
He described Schoenborn as lucid and aware of his situation and legal predicament. Chale said Schoenborn told him he had talked to a lawyer and had been warned not to discuss the killings.
Chale said it would be unusual for a person to show symptoms of delusional behaviour one day, then turn it off and appear normal several days later.
Chale told the court he didn't observe any mental illness, nor was any reported by the hospital's medical staff.
In his report, however, Chale said Schoenborn showed signs of paranoid thinking and an "adjustment disorder."
Chale said the man was having a hard time adjusting to the idea that he was to be transferred to prison in a malnourished state, which might leave him unable to defend himself from other prisoners.
Schoenborn feared he would be targeted by other inmates because of the nature of the charges, Chale said.
Defence lawyers contend Schoenborn was delusional at the time of the killings, and should be found not criminally responsible. The Crown asserts he acted in retaliation against the children's mother, who had told him days earlier she was leaving their 15-year relationship.
Schoenborn is accused of murdering his children Kaitlynne, 10, Max, 8 and Cordon, 5. Kaitlynne was stabbed to death, while the two boys were smothered.
Schoenborn was arrested 10 days later, in the hills above the city.
Under cross-examination by defence lawyer Peter Wilson, Chale conceded he was not tasked with assessing Schoenborn's mental state at the exact time the killings occurred.
Wilson told Chale two other psychiatrists who examined Schoenborn found widely fluctuating signs of delusional or psychotic behaviour.
"Both described the possibility of greatly fluctuating symptoms. Does that accord with your thinking?" Wilson asked.
"I would say that is highly atypical," Chale said.
But Chale also agreed Schoenborn told him he killed his children to protect them, and believed it was morally correct to do so given the circumstances.
Schoenborn testified he believed his children were being sexually abused. He felt the only way he could protect them was to put them in God's hands.
"Those assertions certainly raise the possibility that mental illness could account for killing his children?" asked Wilson. "If the assertions are true, it raises the likelihood of mental illness being involved?"
Chale agreed, adding Schoenborn also told him he still believed he had done the right thing.
Monday was the final day of witness testimony at Schoenborn's trial.
Lawyers will make closing submissions in the case Wednesday and Thursday, after which it will be in the judge's hands to deliver a verdict.
Schoenborn's trial without a jury started on Oct. 5, 2009.

Organizations: B.C. Supreme Court

Geographic location: KAMLOOPS, Merritt

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