July 13, 2021
In November of 2016 21-year-old Gabriel Brandon Klein walked into the entrance of Abbotsford Senior Secondary School in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada and stabbed a 13-year-old 9th-grader, Letisha Reimer, to death. Klein also injured Reimer’s friend, a 14-year-old girl whose name was never published in the media, in the attack. The girl, who is named as E.I in court documents, suffered a collapsed lung and injuries to her liver. Neither victim had any connection to their attacker and the attack was dubbed “a random act of violence” by police. Officials at Abbotsford Senior Secondary School first described Klein as a " barefoot homeless man who walked into the school and attacked the girls before being restrained by staff." This description would cause waves of panic in the Abbotsford homeless population who were concerned for their safety fearing retaliation from the public regarding the death of a child at the hands of a homeless man. Those working with the marginalized homeless community in Abbotsford feared that reports of Klein’s crime would further the stereotype that members of the homeless population are dangerous and violent.
Following the attack Abbotsford Senior Secondary School was locked down for several hours.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said of the attack: “I cannot imagine something more devastating than to leave your house in the morning to say goodbye to your son or your daughter and then to find out in the afternoon that they’re gone. I cannot imagine the pain they’re going through and the questions and the grief. When I heard this, I was shocked and saddened and angered. This is the time we need to come together for the family, and we will get to the bottom of what happened- and we’ll need those solutions.”
Gabriel Klein was transported to a nearby hospital where he stayed overnight before being taken into police custody the next day. When police ran his details, they could not find any criminal history in British Columbia nor any previous incidents with local police. They took to the streets in order to build a profile for Klein, only to discover that no one in the local community and local homeless community had any idea who he was. Klein had no connection to the victims nor the location of his crime and the lack of motive for the attack baffled police at the time. An appeal for information pertaining to the suspect was published in a November 2016 issue of The Vancouver Sun in an article titled: "Do you know Gabriel Klein? Police are trying to piece together information about the man accused of the deadly double stabbing."
The only information investigators had at the time was that they believed Klein may have come from Alberta to British Columbia several months before the attack, likely in March 2016. They believed he may have hung around the Barrhead and Edmonton areas but did not reside in any one place and did not have a fixed address. Police managed to turn up a file from a young man with the same name and date of birth as Klein who had several Calgary-based traffic offences and fines to his name but other than the handful of violations police had nothing else to go on.
Gabriel Klein was charged with one count of second-degree murder and one count of aggravated assault.
Discussion of Klein's mental health was a big focus at his trial. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, along with several other disorders, while in custody awaiting trial. Klein claims that he believed he was stabbing a witch and zombie as opposed to two teenage girls.
“I don’t know how to explain why I acted on my thoughts. I didn’t know these girls; I wasn’t angry at these girls. I felt like the voices in my head gained control over me.” he said.
In his own version of events, Gabriel Klein claims that he intended to use the computers in the library to send an email to his mother to tell her that he was feeling down and suicidal. He claimed that as he was waiting, he turned to see Letisha Reimer and her friend, who appeared to him as a witch and a rotting maggot infested zombie. Klein claims he heard voices in his head commanding him to kill. According to the criminal code, Gabriel Klein could only be spared criminal responsibility by reason of mental disorder if he were unable to accept or understand why his crimes were wrong. According to reports, Klein had given varying versions of what he perceived that day and what the voices in his head were saying. Professionals in the field of mental health weighed in on the case to highlight that memories of events during psychosis can be difficult to recall and the retelling of the episodes may be inconsistent.
Despite his diagnosis, a crown prosecutor argued that there was no evidence to back up Klein's claims that he saw the girls as monsters. Klein’s lawyer argued the opposite.
An article published in The Province newspaper, 08 November 2016, details Gabriel Klein's behavior during a court appearance via video link. During the appearance he sat slumped in a wheelchair, shirtless with a blanket wrapped around him. He was over an hour late for the meeting and officers had a difficult time motivating him to leave his cell. His head hung to one side and he refused to speak or move or even acknowledge the judge.
A hearing to determine whether Gabriel Klein was criminally responsible due to mental disorder was held in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. Ultimately, after sufficient treatment and medication, it was determined that Klein was fit enough to stand trial. His lawyer argued that the murder charge should be reduced to manslaughter and Gabriel Klein was convicted of second-degree murder and aggravated assault in June 2021.
It was revealed at trial that Klein had stolen a hunting knife and alcohol just hours before he attacked and killed Letisha Reimer and injured her friend. Several Abbotsford residents had made calls to police to report Klein behaving strangely before the attack. Witnesses described the 21-year-old making strange noises while walking around the local area.
Reimer's mother said in her victim impact statement: “I hope for this that you never have another moment of peace again in your life and every time you close your eyes, these are the thoughts that fill your brain, and you cannot get away from these pictures or the sounds of her screams in your head.”
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