Man found not criminally responsible for Nanaimo coffee shop killing

Man found not criminally responsible for Nanaimo coffee shop killing

Psychiatrists testified that James Turok was experiencing a psychotic episode during the attack and was incapable of knowing what he was doing was wrong, said Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes

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A man who stabbed a 79-year-old man to death in a random attack in a Nanaimo coffee shop has been found not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder.

On the morning of Feb. 12, 2022, James Carey Turok entered Buzz Coffee House, where Eric Kutzner was in the kitchen preparing baked goods. Kutzner, who often helped out in the bakery owned by his daughter, had left the door unlocked in anticipation of staff arriving, and Turok let himself in.

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He stabbed Kutzner 12 times in his face, chest and back and stuffed a rag into his mouth, Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes said Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo, before finding Turok not criminally responsible for the act.

Staff members arrived around 8:45 a.m. and found the bakery door locked. They could see Kutzner’s blood-soaked legs and Turok walking around dripping blood, Holmes said.

Officers who responded to the call found Turok hiding under a desk in the bakery’s office, next to the kitchen. He resisted arrest and made “bizarre, often incomprehensible statements” calling Kutzner a zombie.

Turok repeatedly gave statements in the immediate aftermath and in early court appearances that he believed Kutzner was a zombie or a bag of pus and that he was not human, Holmes said. He also demanded to be charged with treason at one point for posts he made criticizing Queen Elizabeth.

Turok’s mental health history dates back at least 12 years and includes hospitalizations and certification under the Mental Health Act, Holmes said. He has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder bipolar type and schizophrenia, she said.

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Two psychiatrists testified that Turok was experiencing a psychotic episode during the attack and was incapable of appreciating that what he was doing was wrong, Holmes said.

While in police cells after the attack, Turok tried to contact Elon Musk for help, “thinking that he was Russian, that they were connected and that together they had infinite potential,” Holmes said.

Turok has a pattern of going into remission while on anti-psychotic medication and relapsing when he stops taking it, she said. He had been off his medication for nearly a year and a half when he killed Kutzner.

Turok has acknowledged he killed Kutzner in the “horrific manner” described and asked the court to find him not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder, she said.

“I find that his mental disorder made him incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of his actions, because his psychosis caused him to believe that Mr. Kutzner was not human. Under that delusional belief, Mr. Turok could not appreciate that he was killing a person,” Holmes said.

The verdict does not mean Turok was found not guilty and does not release him from the control of the state, Holmes said.

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She ordered that Turok, who has been in custody since his arrest shortly after the killing, be held at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam pending a disposition by the review board.

Holmes said she doesn’t want Kutzner’s family to feel overlooked in the court process.

“I wish to expressly acknowledge the awful nature and circumstances of the senseless events against Mr. Kutzner that brought his life to an end. And the appalling and, no doubt, lasting effects the offence must have had on those close to him,” she said.

In a statement after his death, Kutzner’s family called him a “vibrant member of society,” and a champion for the disabled in Creston and for seniors’ housing in Nanaimo.

In 2016, when he was living in Creston, Kutzner received the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award for restoring a property that housed and employed people with developmental and physical disabilities.

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