SUSSEX CORNER, N.B. — It has been 10 months since Dana Craig experienced freedom.
Yet there is not a day his mother Donna doesn’t pray for his return home to New Brunswick, where he can begin to rebuild the pieces of his shattered life.
People who love her son are here, and that comfort of feeling close to home, she expects, would be healing for her youngest child, who was found not criminally responsible for his father’s killing inside a Brandon hotel last April.
Dana went before the Manitoba Criminal Code Review Board on Dec. 9 and was ordered to be detained in custody in a hospital.
Donna said everyone was in agreement, including doctors and legal authorities in that hearing, that "Dana has responded well to medications, is thinking clearly and should be transferred back to his home province."
The process is in motion, Donna said, to get Dana moved to New Brunswick’s only forensic psychiatric hospital at the Restigouche Hospital Center in Campbellton. Already both the province’s office of the attorney general and Restigouche have accepted the recommendation for Dana’s transfer, and the third and final stage requires the approval of the New Brunswick Criminal Code Review Board, which oversees cases of those found not criminally responsible.
"I think before spring he will be in Restigouche," Donna said.
Until then, Dana remains under lockdown in the forensic unit at Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, where he has been undergoing treatment since the night his father, retired credit union manager Terry Craig, was killed. He is allowed outside the hospital on supervised passes for a few hours a day when he has a visitor to accompany him, Donna said.
"There is a lot of stigma, we know that. Let’s face it, he’s killed a man," Donna said from her Sussex Corner home. "That stigma will be hard to get past — it’s something Dana will likely carry the rest of his life.
"Down the road when the time is right and Dana can live out in the community again, I don’t know if he will choose to stay in Sussex or be somewhere else. That is a decision he will have to make, but he is fully aware that it will be very difficult to return here because everyone knows him and what he has done," she added. "But time heals a lot of things, I think."
When the dark cloud starts to lift, Donna hopes her tight-knit family, which together has stayed united in an extraordinarily difficult situation, will find comfort. Dwelling on what happened in the hotel room that night is not something Donna cares to discuss.
"Sometimes Dana will try to bring up what happened and I always stop him. That is not a conversation for him to have with me," she said. "For me, I don’t want to have those memories. I don’t need them.
"In grief, as time goes on, you are able to remember the good things. I don’t want the wonderful memories I have to be replaced with anything else."
For her youngest, she wants that same peace.
Dana turned 27 in October while inside the psychiatric facility. Her husband, Terry, would have turned 64 on Dec. 6. He died at the hands of his son after travelling to Alberta to bring him back home once Dana’s comments on social media and in other communications with his parents signalled he was in the throes of a psychotic episode.
Terry was driving home with Dana when they pulled into the Brandon Motel 6 to rest. It was there that Dana, whose mental health condition disallowed him to decipher what was real and what was imagined, choked and stabbed his father because he heard voices directing him to do so.
Dana was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was in Grade 11, his mother said, and was treated for 10 years without suffering a manic event. As part of his treatment in Winnipeg, Donna said, things from whether his bipolar diagnoses is accurate or if it falls more in line with schizoaffective disorder, which contains elements of both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, to the proper prescriptions and doses of medicine are being scrutinized.
Donna has visited Dana a few times and has regular face-to-face Internet conversations with him over the computer. She has maintained support for her son throughout the unimaginable circumstance. And she believes Terry, if he was alive, would show the same unconditional love for the family.
"I know what Terry would say. I know he would support me in doing everything I could for Dana," Donna said. "He did everything for his kids."
She said Dana lives with his guilt and has repeatedly apologized for what he did to the man they all loved so much. Dana was without his medications about one week when his manic episode spiked. That decision to stop taking his prescriptions because of the troubles he was having digesting them is a decision he will never repeat, Donna believes.
Donna hopes to help wipe away some of the stigma of mental health, and says until people talk openly and honestly about the illnesses so many families have been hiding in closets, people will continue to suffer in silence.
"I think it needs to be talked about," she said. "People are in the dark and have no idea what’s going on, especially with these kids who are suffering once they hit puberty or reach their teens. There has to be support and understanding for them."
The Criminal Code Review Board’s decisions are reviewed annually.
However, under Dana’s current disposition, the board may consider increasing his pass privileges. That includes the possibility of an extended pass that would allow him to live in the community, subject to further conditions deemed necessary and appropriate by the board. That would require an updated assessment, first.
» The Telegraph-Journal, with files from the Brandon Sun