March 6, 2009
WINNIPEG–The family of a man who was beheaded on a Greyhound bus says his killer is "getting away with murder," but the judge who found him not criminally responsible for the "barbaric" slaying says the law doesn’t unnecessarily punish the mentally ill.
Vince Li’s attack on Tim McLean in Manitoba last summer was "grotesque" and "appalling," said Justice John Scurfield.
"However, the acts themselves and the context in which they were committed are strongly suggestive of a mental disorder," the judge said yesterday.
"He did not appreciate the act he committed was morally wrong. He believed he was acting in self-defence and that he had been commanded by God to do so."
McLean’s loved ones said the verdict has robbed them of closure and they feel the responsibility now falls to them to attend his yearly assessments to try to ensure Li is never released.
"He is getting away with murder," said McLean’s older sister, Vana Smart. "He’ll never have a criminal record. After the review board decides that he can be medically managed in the community, he can get a job in a daycare. He can cross the border."
Both Crown and defence psychiatrists had testified at Li’s trial that he was suffering from schizophrenia and believed the voice of God ordered him to kill McLean because the young man was a force of evil. Li, 40, was charged with second-degree murder but pleaded not guilty.
His DNA will be put on file but he will not have a criminal record. He is to appear before a criminal review board within 90 days to determine how he will be institutionalized. His mental health will be reviewed every year by the same board to determine if he can be released into the community.
"That does not mean that he should go free," Scurfield said. "People who are found not criminally responsible but who continue to pose a danger to the community may be kept in a locked institution for the rest of their lives."
That was cold comfort to McLean’s mother, Carol deDelley, who said Li may be mentally ill, but he still killed her 22-year-old son in the most brutal possible way.
"Knowing that killer might get out some time soon is very hard," added Tim McLean Sr., who has his son’s face tattooed above his heart.
But lawyers on both sides said justice was done. The Crown had no choice but to argue Li was not criminally responsible, said prosecutor Joyce Dalmyn.
That Li killed the carnival worker – stabbing him, beheading him and then mutilating his body – was never in question at the trial.
An agreed statement of facts read in court detailed how Li sat next to McLean when the young man gave him a smile and asked how he was doing. It was after McLean closed his eyes to listen to music on his headphones that Li thought he heard the voice of God.
"Suddenly the sunshine came in the bus and the voice said, `Quick. Hurry up. Kill him and then you’ll be safe,’" Li told a psychiatrist. "It was so quick, such an angry voice, and I had to do what it said. I was told that if I didn’t listen to the voice, I would die immediately."
Li ignored other horrified passengers as he repeatedly stabbed the young man, who fought for his life. When the bus pulled over near Portage la Prairie, Man., Li was engrossed with stabbing and mutilating McLean’s body.
Police said body parts were found throughout the bus in plastic bags.