MONCTON, New Brunswick (AP) – An accused killer whose gruesome double-murder trial was suspended after he suffered a delusional meltdown in a New Brunswick courtroom will face another trial, leaving relatives of the victims with little choice but to endure a repeat of the grim case.
A provincial review board ruled Thursday that Gregory Allen Despres, 24, has responded well to treatment for paranoid schizophrenia and now understands the court proceedings and the two charges of first-degree murder.
He’s accused of killing his elderly neighbors, Fred Fulton, 74, and Verna Decarie, 70, in their Minto home in 2005. Both had been stabbed repeatedly and Fulton was decapitated, his head later found in a pillowcase under a kitchen table.
Relatives of Fulton and Decarie attended every day of the first trial despite often disturbing depictions of the crime scene.
“It’s going to be hard on the family to go through the trial again, but it’s the least we can do for Freddy and Verna,” said Michael Richardson, Fulton’s nephew.
“They fought for their lives that night, and we’re going to continue to fight for justice until we’re satisfied with the outcome. Their memory is still vivid in our minds and always will be.”
Despres was arrested in Massachusetts on April 26, 2005 shortly after the bodies were found.
He had been allowed to enter the United States at Calais, Maine, a day earlier, even though he was carrying a homemade sword, brass knuckles, knife, pepper spray, chainsaw and a hatchet.
U.S. border authorities took the weapons and fingerprinted Despres, a naturalized U.S. citizen, but let him into the country even though he told them he was a marine sniper and an assassin with 700 kills to his credit.
Several border guards testified they could not detain him because he had a valid U.S. passport.
His trial began last January, but it was halted a month later after his outburst in court, which included references to executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, al-Qaida and something he called the “super space patrol.”
Earlier in the trial, other outbursts included claims that he was a pilot and a member of the Hells Angels.
On Wednesday, two psychiatrists and a psychologist told the review board hearing that Despres was no longer troubled by delusions because of new medication.
The board ordered Despres to return to the Shepody Healing Centre, a secure health-care facility associated with Dorchester Penitentiary.
It also recommended he continue with his medical treatments, but Despres can’t be forced to take any medication.
Lawyers for the Crown and defense said they weren’t surprised by Thursday’s ruling, given the unanimous recommendation from the health experts.
“We’re happy for the family and happy that this matter can now continue on in court,” said Crown prosecutor Paul Hawkins.
A court date will be set next month and a new trial could start as early as September.
As with the first trial, the new case will be heard by judge alone.
It remains unclear whether witnesses who testified at the first trial will be recalled to the courtroom, and Despres has suggested he wants to fire lawyer Ed Derrah and represent himself.
Lawyer Ron Morris, appointed as a “friend of the court” during the first trial, said such a move would be a very bad idea.
“I think that would be the worst thing that could ever happen and I hope he considers this and sticks with Ed (Derrah), who did a magnificent job in the first trial,” said Morris.
Morris said it could be argued Despres was not criminally responsible for the deaths because of mental illness, but such a defense would not be presented unless he is found guilty of the crimes.