Brandon Police Service members respond to a report of a homicide at the Motel 6 on the Trans-Canada Highway in April 2013. Several police vehicles blocked off the entrance.
The family of a man who was in the midst of a psychotic episode when he killed his own beloved father in a city hotel room will now try to heal from their loss.
A forensic identification officer walks between two rooms at the Motel 6 on the Trans-Canada Highway in a still image from a video shot after a man was killed there in April. (FILE PHOTO)
In Brandon Court of Queen’s Bench on Wednesday, Dana Allison Craig was found not criminally responsible for killing his 63-year-old father, Terry Craig.
Dana’s mother, and widow to Terry, Donna Craig, said she forgives her son and her family doesn’t blame him for what he did while in the grips of mental illness.
They now just look forward to the day he’s back home in New Brunswick near his family.
"I guess we just take one day at a time," Donna said following court.
Dana, 26, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Terry, whose body was found in a room at the Brandon Motel 6 on April 10.
Wednesday’s hearing began with Dana pleading not guilty to the charge, but the following "trial" was more a technicality as he admitted to killing his dad.
It was left to Justice John Menzies to decide whether Dana was not criminally responsible — whether he was suffering from a mental disorder at the time that prevented him from appreciating the nature and consequences of his actions.
Crown attorney Jim Ross detailed a tragic series of events that led to the killing.
Dana grew up in his family’s home in Sussex Corner, N.B. His family has a history of mental illness and Dana had his first psychotic episode at 17 years of age when he was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder.
He remained under the care of a psychiatrist right up to the time of the killing and was on two medications, including an anti-psychotic.
Until the killing, there’d been no indication of any further psychotic episode.
Dana had lived near Sussex Corner, N.B. where his parents continued to live, but weeks before the killing he travelled to Edmonton to stay with friends and seek work.
In Edmonton, however, Dana had trouble digesting his medication and he stopped taking it.
His friends would later tell police that Dana began to act strangely — he was more energetic, slept less, talked quickly even though he wasn’t making sense and spoke of being enlightened.
At one point, Dana smashed his computer and told a friend: "I have to get off the grid."
Concerned friends told Dana’s parents back in New Brunswick and they, in turn, called the mental health crisis response team in Edmonton.
Team members spoke to Dana on April 7, but he managed to compose himself and the team didn’t find him a danger to himself and others and didn’t have grounds to hospitalize him against his will.
He denied that he wasn’t taking his medication and denied that he was hearing voices or had increased energy and had been sleeping less.
Skeptical, a psychiatric nurse told Dana’s roommate to call if there were further problems, and the team intended to follow up in two days.
A mental health worker did call the roommate back two days later, and learned that Dana’s condition had worsened — he’d shaved his head and body, for example, and claimed that an animal had spoken to him.
The worker called back later that day and learned that Dana’s father had flown to Alberta to take his son home to New Brunswick. Father and son would drive home because Dana wouldn’t get on a plane.
"Not an ideal plan, as this drive can take up to four days," mental health staff noted on the file.
During the drive, Terry texted Donna to tell her their son was "bad" and "quite manic" — they would need a psychiatrist when they got back. Conversations Dana had with his mother by text and phone were bizarre and rambling.
On April 10, father and son stopped in Brandon and got a room at the Motel 6. They ate at a restaurant, then returned to the hotel.
At 7:30 p.m., Terry made a 911 call. He gave his full name, gave the hotel he was in and said he was in Room 325.
Sounds of a struggle could be heard during the call and Terry could be heard saying, "Stop it, Dana" repeatedly before the call ended.
Police attended, but Room 325 was empty. Unknown to police at the time, the Craigs were actually in Room 329.
Police checked rooms 324, 326 and 327. They then called the number that had dialed 911 and got no answer. They checked with the front desk, but there’d been no report of a disturbance at the hotel and police left.
Meanwhile, back in New Brunswick, Donna was concerned. Around the time Terry had placed the 911 call, her son-in-law had texted Dana to ask how the trip was going. Dana responded: "Washing the blood off the hands of my son." Dana also texted his mom: "This is the end, my best friend is gone."
Donna called the Motel 6 desk clerk, a 19-year-old girl who had started working at the hotel that week, and asked her to check on her husband and son.
The clerk knocked on the door of Room 329. There was no response. She then used her pass key to get in and found Terry’s body on the floor.
She opened the bathroom door and found Dana naked in the bathtub. His clothes and ID were spread out in the tub.
Startled, Dana ran into the hall with the clerk chasing him with a towel which the man declined to wear.
As the clerk called police, a distressed Dana wandered the halls naked. When police arrived, they found him in the lobby still nude and, realizing something was wrong with him, they took him to hospital instead of jail.
Dana didn’t seem to grasp what was going on. He was cheerful, laughed and said he’d never been more at peace — he also expressed puzzlement about where his dad was.
He told a hospital psychiatrist that he was hearing voices and could "see energy." As he was lodged at the Brandon jail, he said he couldn’t wait to see his dad again.
He was later taken to PX3, the secure psychiatric ward at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, where he was noted as "highly psychotic" on admission and remained that way for several weeks.
An autopsy determined that Terry had been choked to death, and also struck in the face and skull. There were 12 stab wounds to his neck, apparently made after he was deceased.
Dana later described the delusion he was under at the time of the killing — he said his father had given him a mission to kill him which had to be done for the good of the world. He was upset with the "mission" he’d been given, but choked his father and then stabbed him in the neck to end his suffering as quickly as possible.
"He felt a great peace when his father was dead because he had accomplished the terrible task his father had set for him and saved the world," Ross told court, describing the delusion.
Dana was later diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and found to be acutely psychotic at the time of the killing and unable to appreciate his actions were wrong.
Both Ross and defence lawyer Ryan Fawcett asked Menzies to find Dana not criminally responsible due to a serious mental disorder.
"It’s not Dana who killed his father Terry — it was his mental illness," Fawcett said.
Fawcett said that during the mental crisis, Dana would have been unrecognizable to his friends and family as a person.
He was very close to his father and there was no animosity between them, Fawcett noted. His father is the only person Dana would have agreed to travel home with.
Menzies declared Dana not criminally responsible and referred him to the Manitoba Criminal Code Review Board for disposition. He remains in custody and the board has 90 days to hold a hearing. In general, possible dispositions vary widely depending on the risk an offender poses to himself and others.
The disposition can range from release into the community for a person who poses no threat, to detention in a mental health facility for those who pose a high risk.
The psychiatrist reports Dana still needs treatment in a facility. His symptoms are largely under control, but some remain and he needs to be rehabilitated.
Ross told court that the long-term goal is to move Dana back to New Brunswick to be near his supportive family.
Dana’s mother and his brother, Adam, were in court for Wednesday’s hearing.
Donna said her family doesn’t blame Dana for what he did — he loved his father, whom he considered a best friend.
The NCR ruling has brought some closure, Donna said, but she’s looking forward to the time when her son is back home in New Brunswick.
Donna has visited Dana at PX3. She says that, with treatment and medication, he has come to realize what he has done.
Both Donna and Adam noted the struggle Dana will face as he comes to terms with killing his father.
"He knows now and it will be very tough for him to deal with it," Donna said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 3, 2013