A vehemently anti-vaccine nurse at Seven Oaks General Hospital is suspected of trying to kill a supervisor Wednesday after allegedly killing his parents in separate attacks.
Doctors and nurses at the Garden City-area hospital took heroic measures to save the life of one of their own after the vicious mid-afternoon attack in the main-entrance atrium.
Nursing supervisor Candyce Szkwarek, a longtime employee in her 60s, suffered a gaping neck wound after a man stabbed her.
A doctor ran to help Szkwarek and someone tackled the suspect, who managed to flee the chaotic, bloodied scene.
Trevor Farley, 37, was apprehended by police who arrived moments later.
No charges have yet been laid. Farley is undergoing a medical assessment.
Szkwarek was in critical, but stable, condition Thursday. She was rushed to Health Sciences Centre for surgery immediately after the attack.
The stunning violence occurred about an hour after RCMP officers conducting a well-being check discovered the body of Farley's 73-year-old mother Judy Swain on her farm in New Bothwell. They alerted police that the suspect was on his way to Winnipeg, about 45 kilometres northwest.
Szkwarek is not Farley's direct manager, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority chief executive officer Mike Nader told reporters Thursday. He declined to say whether the two worked on the same unit.
He said the man was not scheduled to be working when the attack occurred.
The suspect walked through the Leila Avenue doors into the atrium and past staff who were stationed at the front to screen people on arrival. There were several patients, family members and employees in the area at the time, he said.
The suspect entered quietly with a hidden knife, Nader said, adding Szkwarek was in the atrium chatting with one of her colleagues when she was attacked. Staff quickly announced a code blue over the hospital intercom to call for more support.
"We had a number of staff who jumped the individual, managed to take them off of the individual who was being assaulted, and then hospital staff reacted immediately to care for their co-worker," Nader said. "It was an amazing response. They rushed her to the urgent care and then (she was) rushed off to receive surgery.
Cries for help were inadvertently broadcast on the public-address system and a doctor ran to the atrium.
"(He) literally had to put his hand inside the nurse's neck to stop the bleeding," said a hospital source. "When the clerk announced for security on the loudspeaker, she forgot to hang up the line and everybody from their hospital rooms (and the) lobby had to listen to the yells and screaming for help from the doctors and nurses.
"It was all on the loudspeaker, (the) wailing out throughout the hospital."
A Seven Oaks health-care employee working Wednesday afternoon told the Free Press that staff responded to the code blue without having any idea of the horrific scene they were walking into involving one of their colleagues.
The employee, who did not witness the attack, asked not to be identified publicly.
"It was hard. Most of us that were on, we still had to stay for hours to finish, but everybody just felt so unsafe, and like, how can this happen?" the worker said.
"I mean, you can't anticipate it, but there's just no words to describe. This is someone we work with, we're supposed to be safe in our work environment, and someone that actually works there comes in and can just walk in the front doors and stab somebody. It's terrifying that that can actually go on. And it happened all so fast."
Nader said security at the hospital has been reviewed and other sites within the WRHA have been offered additional resources if necessary. He said a critical-incident stress management team and spiritual-care providers were on site.
"We are really focused on the care and well-being of our staff because this is not an incident that I think anybody expects to have in their career," he said.
"The staff are doing OK... they’re shocked, they’re really worried about their co-worker, they’re dealing with the stress of it," he said. "One of the things that I’ve just been so impressed with and humbled with is the compassion that our staff continue to show in light of a situation that is so traumatic for them.
"They’re used to seeing people come in injured and hurt. They’re not used to seeing their co-worker beside them. So that has been a very traumatic event."
Nader described Szkwarek as "a longtime employee, well loved by staff and her colleagues."
"We’re just really, really happy that she’s out of surgery and at this point in time she’s stable," he said.
Several hours after the attack, RCMP investigators discovered the body of Stuart Farley, the suspect's father, believed to be in his 70s, at a home on the 300 block of Toronto Street in the West End. Farley's parents had been divorced for more than a decade.
Sources told the Free Press that Farley adamantly refused to get the COVID-19 vaccination, jeopardizing his continued employment at Seven Oaks.
In New Bothwell, police tape surrounded the small farmhouse where Swain made her living as a "principled" organic farmer Thursday.
Police allowed a man who lived on the property as a boarder to get inside to feed the roughly 1,000 chickens that he and Swain had cared for.
The man told the Free Press he’d known Swain for a decade and lived on her property for about 18 months, calling her "the hardest-working 73-year-old I’ve ever met in my life."
He said he’d remembered seeing Trevor Farley visit the farm once or twice in the last six months, but said he’d heard from his mother that they had been estranged before that.
"I’ve really enjoyed living with her, as crazy as she was," he said. "We had our differences, but we got along."
A neighbour, another farmer, who stopped by to remember Swain, called her "super-generous and helpful to everybody around."
"She was so particular that everything had to be organic — she could’ve rented out the land and made good money that way, but she was adamant that it had to be organic," he said.
The boarder said he plans to remain on the property to continue to take care of the livestock. He said he’s not sure if he’ll keep up her business.
Kristie Beynon burst into tears when she learned of Swain's death.
The executive director of Direct Farm Manitoba, a co-operative of small-scale farmers where Swain served as treasurer, had known her for eight years.
"She is, she was a fantastic woman — so full of life and vitality, always ready to work hard," she said. "She had a fantastic farm operation, she was a happy face to see at the market where she sometimes sold her chickens."
Don McMahon, a neighbour of Stuart Farley who had done repair work at his home on Toronto Street in the past, had lived in the area for around three or four years and called him a "well-spoken, nicely-mannered" conversationalist.
"He was a very quiet guy, never hung out in the front yard like many of us do, he was very quiet," he said. "But he seemed content with his life."
McMahon said he'd met one of Farley's two sons who visited frequently, but said he’d never met Trevor. He first realized something had happened when he saw multiple police cars outside of his neighbour's home.
"At first I thought it might’ve been a home invasion, but it obviously wasn’t... one of my neighbours asked (police) if somebody died, and they didn’t deny it," he said.
Trevor Farley is a registered nurse licensed by the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba and, of Thursday, he did not have any conditions or notations on his licence.
It was unclear just how long Farley had been employed by the hospital.
His name was included in the compensation disclosure report for the year ending Dec. 31, 2018, which includes employees who earn $75,000 or more. His name does not appear in the 2020 compensation disclosure report.
Manitoba court records show Farley filed for bankruptcy last year. According to documents, he had debts of nearly $140,000, most of them for credit cards and student loans.
In a court document dated March 5 of this year, RBC opposed discharging him as a bankrupt, arguing the bulk of Farley’s debt was used to further his education, "which will benefit (him) over the long term."
"The bankrupt could have made a viable proposal, but chose bankruptcy rather than a proposal to creditors as a means to resolve the indebtedness," the bank said.
In 2012, Farley and his then fiance’s ex-husband agreed to a one-year peace bond following accusations of violent and threatening behaviour by both parties.
Winnipeg Police Service spokeswoman Const. Dani McKinnon declined to speculate publicly on the motivation for Wednesday's mayhem.
"This investigation is still in its infancy, charges have not been laid at this time, really this is just the tip of the iceberg," she said Thursday. "It’s not often that we have three massive events that are related so there’s a lot to piece together here at this time."
She said it’s unclear how long the medical assessment may take and when charges would be laid.
"Once he’s back in police custody, again the investigation is considered and we will get developing the charges based on the evidence and how these three incidents unfolded."
The Winnipeg Police Service homicide unit and RCMP major crimes unit continue to investigate. Anyone with information city police at 204-986-6508, RCMP’s tip line at 431-489-8105 or Crime Stoppers at 204-786 TIPS (8477).
— With files from Danielle Da Silva, Katie May and Dean Pritchard