WINNIPEG–A year ago, Kayli Shaw boarded a Greyhound bus for a long cross-country journey from Edmonton to her home in Ontario.
She was looking forward to seeing her boyfriend and took a seat four rows behind the driver.
The sun was setting as the bus travelled along the straight, flat Trans-Canada Highway that carves across Manitoba.
All of a sudden, a passenger rushed past her yelling for the bus driver to stop. Someone was being stabbed.
"I thought it was just a joke," said Shaw, speaking publicly about her ordeal for the first time from London, Ont. She quickly realized it was anything but. She looked behind her and saw Vince Li stabbing Tim McLean repeatedly.
"I just freaked out," said Shaw, who left all her things on the bus and scrambled for the door. "I just wanted to get out of there as fast as possible."
That unfolding nightmare haunts Shaw to this day.
Like others who witnessed the horror that July night, she can’t get the bloody images out of her head.
Li stabbed the 22-year-old carnival worker dozens of times, carving up his body and scattering it around the bus. Part of McLean’s heart and his eyes were never found.
When she closes her eyes, Shaw sees Li holding up McLean’s head, "taunting police" from inside the locked bus. She sees police standing outside the bus and firefighters leaning up against emergency vehicles as Li continues defiling McLean inside.
"It’s been hell," said the 23-year-old. "If someone drops a pencil, I’ll jump. I’m afraid to get on buses. I have nightmares every night. I can’t sleep through the night at all. I barricade myself into my apartment."
McLean’s death is being marked by a vigil at Manitoba’s legislature tomorrow. It is one of several that have been held in the past year.
Li was found not criminally responsible for his actions at a short trial in March. A judge found Li suffered from untreated schizophrenia and did not realize that killing McLean was wrong. His case will be reviewed every year to determine if he is well enough to be released.
Li is locked up in an institution where doctors say he is making progress – taking his medication, watching movies, playing cards and reading the Bible.
But scars remain for the witnesses to what he did and for those who knew McLean.
Jennifer Ashley Ptashnik, one of McLean’s cousins, said her family hasn’t begun to recover.
She remembers McLean as a generous soul who used to horde sweets collected during one of his grandmother’s "candy scrambles." He would then distribute them to the smaller grandchildren who were at a disadvantage in the game.
McLean’s mother, Carol deDelley, said in a victim impact statement read out at Li’s Criminal Code review board hearing she can’t sleep, can’t eat and can no longer earn a living driving a school bus.
She is now pouring her energy into fighting for changes so people who are found not criminally responsible for a crime still serve time in jail.
But her crusade can’t erase what happened, and every time she looks at her son’s picture, she has visions of his decapitation.
Winnipeg lawyer Jay Prober is preparing to file a class-action lawsuit against Greyhound on behalf of passengers.
While Li is in a mental institution getting the counselling he needs, passengers have been left to grapple with their nightmares virtually on their own, Prober said.