Mental illness drove murderous spree, judge hears

A man who killed his three children, supposedly to protect them from imagined sexual predators, does not think he is mentally ill, a psychiatrist told a judge Friday.

But it's clear Allan Schoenborn has long suffered delusions, hallucinations and paranoia going back decades, said Dr. Roy O'Shaughnessy, an expert called by the defence.

The doctor examined Schoenborn shortly after he was arrested in April 2008, and again in June 2009. He also reviewed the man's medical history and the reports of social workers, correctional officers, teachers and psychologists.

Schoenborn, 41, is charged with the first-degree murder of his children Kaitlynne, 10, Max, 8, and Cordon, 5. Their mother found them dead in the family's trailer April 6, 2008.

O'Shaughnessy concluded the man suffers a delusional disorder, or perhaps even paranoid schizophrenia, and has been affected by waxing and waning cycles of mental disease for years.

That illness affected his perception of reality, the doctor said. Schoenborn seized upon innocuous things and made them out to be signs of persecution, either upon himself or his children.

The man somehow concluded his children were being sexually abused and he could not stop it. He believed he could no longer protect his children, prompting him to take their lives, the judge heard.

"(In his mind), it was an altruistic act to spare them a life of suffering," said the doctor. "In his distorted view of the world, (killing the children) was logical. The issue is, it's just not rational."

"When Mr. Schoenborn killed his children, was he in the midst of a psychotic illness?" asked defence lawyer Peter Wilson.

"He was," O'Shaughnessy said.

"Was it that illness that produced the motivation?" he lawyer continued

"In my view, it was," he said.

"Was he capable of appreciating the nature and quality of his conduct," Wilson continued.

"He certainly understood he was killing his children. (But) he thought his conduct was morally correct and consistent with God's law. He was putting his children in heaven."

The doctor also dismissed the Crown's theory Schoenborn killed the children as an act of spousal revenge. Such cases are extremely rare, he said, and never involve the mentally ill.

"Nothing suggests he would kill them to hurt her," he said. "There is nothing here to suggest this was a spousal revenge (situation)."

Before the doctor testified, Wilson presented the court with three admissions of evidence.

One of the documents indicated three days before the children were killed, social workers warned Darcie Clarke, the children's mother, they would intervene if she did not take adequate steps to protect them from Schoenborn's increasingly strange and alarming behaviour.

From another written admission, the judge learned how two undercover RCMP officers spent five days with Schoenborn in jail cells at the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre.

The two officers were placed alongside Schoenborn in a special observation unit at the prison. There were no others on the unit but the three men.

One of the officers told Schoenborn he was in custody for killing a mother and her two children, the other said he'd killed his wife.

One time, the officers chatted with Schoenborn in a group, expressing to him their regrets for what they supposedly did.

"It's not like I meant for it to happen," said one of the officers.

"It's different, I did mean to do what I did do," Schoenborn said in response.

"You meant to do it?" the officer continued.

"You didn't mean to, and you didn't mean to," Schoenborn told the two undercover officers. "Me - I meant to."

"Are you OK with it, or what?" an officer asked.

"It's between me and (God). He knows exactly why I did it, you know."

On another day, Schoenborn asked an officer if he'd ever seen a hamster eat her babies.

"You know, she's doing that to protect them," he said.

Schoenborn also said "he" knows what was in his heart.

"What was in your heart?" asked the cop.

"Love. Yeah. That's it," Schoenborn said.

The trial before Justice Robert Powers without a jury continues Monday.

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