The 95-year-old veteran charged with killing an 85-year-old man who shared his room at a Vernon care facility took two bullets when he served in the Devil’s Brigade in the Second World War.
John Furman, who has dementia, is in Hillside Psychiatric Centre where his assessment is expected to take four to six weeks.
Vernon North Okanagan RCMP detachment spokesman Gordon Molendyk said Wednesday that Furman was remanded for two days, charged with murder.
Police are honouring a request by the victim’s family not to release the name of the man killed.
“This is a very sad, tragic case,” he said. “Family is suffering as a result of this, and so we’re going to honour that.”
An autopsy was done in Kamloops on Wednesday.
Crown counsel indicated that depending on what the assessment says, the murder charge may not be pursued.
Neil MacKenzie, communications counsel with the Criminal Justice branch, said the issue of whether someone is fit to stand trial isn’t always resolved before charges are approved by the Crown.
But he expected the report on Furman’s mental state will be influential when the case resumes in court on Sept. 25.
Furman is a Second World War veteran, although Vernon Royal Canadian Legion president John Miller did not know him. The group has more than 800 members.
Furman and the victim were residents of Polson Special Care facility, a 26-bed unit run by Interior Health for people who have dementia and psychological or behavioural issues.
Vernon Museum archivist Ron Candy wrote about Furman’s involvement with the First Special Service Force, also known as the Devil’s Brigade, during the Second World War. The aging veteran sometimes lent his framed medals to the museum for display.
He always knew him as “Jack” Furman, a man who moved to Vernon in 1971 upon retirement. Furman had a wife who has since died, but Candy didn’t know of any children or other immediate relatives.
“He didn’t brag about his exploits, quite the opposite. He was just a sweet old guy,” he said.
Furman shopped frequently at a downtown grocery store and the manager there has known him for years, Candy said. He said he talked earlier Wednesday with the manager about what happened and they were surprised at the turn that Furman’s life has taken.
“All the contact we’ve had with Jack over the years — just a kind, lovable old guy. He always had a smile on his face, always had a joke to tell,” he said. “It really threw us. It was so out of character.”
The Devil’s Brigade was an elite joint U.S.-Canada force. Furman was trained in parachuting, weapons, demolition, hand-to-hand combat, skiing and rock climbing.
During one stint in Anzio, Italy, the force fought for 99 days without relief. Furman took two bullets from a machine gun; one in the neck the other in his chest.
Candy hadn’t seen Furman for almost a year, but the grocery store manager spotted him as recently as three weeks ago.
“For us, knowing Jack and who he was and the life he led, we don’t want that to be forgotten,” he said.
“He was proud of his military service. He had his medals hung in his house. He was also very humble about his service.”