SURREY, B.C. — The case against a man accused of stabbing two girls at an Abbotsford, B.C., high school will move ahead despite the man’s persistent silence, a judge says.
The court heard on Wednesday that Gabriel Klein, 21, hasn’t spoken with counsel nor responded to questions put to him during any of the his three court appearances since his arrest on Nov. 1.
Klein faces one charge each of second-degree murder and aggravated assault linked to what police have said was a random attack that killed Grade 9 student Letisha Reimer, 13, and injured another girl. The identity of the second girl is protected under a publication ban.
Klein was first scheduled to appear in court last Wednesday, the day after the two girls were attacked in the front entrance of Abbotsford Senior Secondary. But it ended before it began because he would not leave the courthouse cells to appear in person, the court heard.
“This is not a voluntary system we’re in. It’s a coercive system,” B.C. provincial court Judge Richard Miller told the court.
“He’s in custody and the proceedings are going to proceed at pace.”
Klein arrived in provincial court in Surrey on Wednesday in a wheelchair and covered in a blanket. He rocked back and forth and showed no reaction as Miller asked him several times whether he had anything to say.
“Given your silence on these issues, I don’t see any alternative available to me other than to send you to the next step,” Miller said, speaking to Klein.
He ordered that the accused be sent to B.C. Supreme Court in order for a date to be set for a trial before a judge and jury.
“It seems to me that you would be well advised to start to talk to people, in particular counsel, who are there to assist you,” Miller said, eliciting no response from Klein.
“However, if you choose not to, that is your choice and we will carry on to the end.”
Neither Klein’s duty counsel, Wayne Burns, nor the Crown lawyer has asked for a fitness assessment to determine if he is mentally fit to stand trial.
Burns told the court he believes Klein’s mental health is questionable, based on meeting with him twice on Wednesday, and said he thinks a psychiatrist would be able to provide a more informed evaluation.
He stopped short of requesting an assessment because he wasn’t given specific direction from Klein to do so, he later explained outside court.
Klein “was making gestures that indicated to me his mental health is definitely in question,” Burns told the court. “I asked him if he understood where he was, whether he stood before a court, the process he was involved with and he could not give me any instructions.”
The judge said the man’s mental fitness, as well as the issues of bail, the appointment of counsel and whether to hold a preliminary inquiry, can all be dealt with in B.C. Supreme Court.
Little is known about Klein’s background, though police say he has ties to Alberta and that he was living homeless in the Lower Mainland at the time of the attack.
His next scheduled court appearance is in New Westminster on Nov. 21.
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