Thursday, March 03, 2011

Man not responsible for stabbing cab driver

From the Kingston Whig-Standard Online:

A 25-year-old man, who stabbed an Amey's cab driver for no apparent reason in November 2009 and then stole his taxi, has been declared not criminally responsible for his crimes by reason of mental illness.

Timothy L. McGonegal was arraigned in Kingston's Ontario Court of Justice Monday on charges of attempted murder, stealing a car while armed with a knife, dangerous driving and violating probation by failing to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.

Defence lawyer Dave Crowe entered pleas of not guilty on McGonegal's behalf on the basis that he could not be held criminally responsible for his actions.

Assistant Crown attorney Gerard Laarhuis then tendered the video statement that McGonegal gave to police after his arrest and invited Justice Rommel Masse to make a finding that he did commit the acts that gave rise to the charges. A short hearing followed to determine whether McGonegal could be held criminally responsible for his actions. Masse ultimately concluded he couldn't.

Laarhuis told the judge that following the Nov. 4, 2009, attack, a Kingston Police detective broached the subject of counselling with cab driver John Barnes, the stabbing victim. Barnes said he was aware of the dangers inherent to his occupation, the prosecutor told the court, and said he was going back to work.

He just wanted to know why he was stabbed, Laarhuis told the judge, because he said it was so unnecessary.

"Sadly," Laarhuis disclosed, Barnes died early in January from cancer.

The morning he crossed paths with McGonegal, the prosecutor related, Barnes was parked on the Kingston Centre lot waiting for a fare. Laarhuis told the judge that McGonegal showed up at 3:10 a.m., headed directly to Barnes's cab, leaned in and asked if Barnes could drive him to Napanee.

The cab driver agreed. Mc-Gonegal got into the front passenger seat and Barnes called his dispatcher for the flat rate -- $65. Then, after the cab had pulled out, McGonegal asked Barnes if he accepted debit.

Laarhuis said it's company policy to get the money up front, so Barnes pulled onto another lot at Princess and Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard, but as he reached for the debit machine, McGonegal plunged a knife into the centre of his chest without warning.

Masse was told the blade went in about an inch, but Laarhuis said the doctors who treated him believe it failed to penetrate Barnes's heart because the blade was deflected by his sternum.

Laarhuis said Barnes started to tell McGonegal that he'd just begun his shift and had no money, at the same time reaching for the door handle to escape, but his hand slipped.

According to the prosecutor, McGonegal responded by pushing harder on the knife, which at that point was still embedded in Barnes's chest. He ordered the cab driver to get out of his cab.

Laarhuis said Barnes later recalled that he half stepped and half stumbled out the driver's side door and found himself standing at the rear of his cab watching McGonegal slide across the seat and get behind the wheel. Mc-Gonegal then sped north on Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard and Barnes used his cellphone to call his dispatcher for help.

Not long after that, police found the taxi in a ditch off the west-bound ramp to Hwy. 401. McGonegal was on foot, about 300 metres west of the abandoned cab, walking along the south side of the highway.

Laarhuis said Kingston Police questioned him after his arrest and McGonegal told them where he'd thrown the knife out the cab's window after the stabbing. Masse was told that a blue and silver folding knife with a 3 1/2-inch blade was later recovered.

That information came in one of the rare moments, however, when McGonegal was both responsive and relatively lucid.

When he was subsequently in-t erviewed, Laarhuis told the judge McGonegal talked about secret societies, his need to get in touch with his "heritage" as a member of a race apart from the rest of us, and "vampires of Ohio" among other themes.

McGonegal even declared, at one point, that "the universe needs dead bodies ... strung across the universe" to protect the earth from the effects of a thinning ozone layer. He suggested the human shield effect could best be accomplished by people swallowing TNT.

When his police interviewer asked him if his victim was a selection or random, McGonegal replied, "honestly ma'am, just happened to be the unfortunate one," and when she invited him to describe what happened between him and the cab driver, he told her "I broke," but he quickly went on to claim he was a Hells Angel and made a series of cryptic and seemingly random remarks.

Later in the interview, Mc-Gonegal compared himself to the fictional villain Hannibal Lecter and claimed to be a cannibal. He then went on to complain about being tortured and about having a chip implanted somewhere in his body that controlled his behaviour.

Laarhuis told the judge Mc-Gonegal has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and added that "he's had very active symptoms" since about May 2009.

Consequently, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Hucker was asked by the Crown attorney's office to conduct a psychiatric evaluation for the court. It was Dave Crowe who called the doctor to the witness stand, however, and under questioning by him, Hucker testified that when he met Mc-Gonegal at Providence Continuing Care last November, what struck him was "a very prominent thought disorder," characterized by disorganized ideas and individual words imbued with special potency or underlying meanings unique to McGonegal.

The doctor said there's also a medical history, provided primarily by the man's father, of his deterioration through 2009, "but I think he's been ill a lot longer than that," Hucker told the court.

He also calculated that by the time he interviewed McGonegal, nine months had passed since the court ordered that he receive treatment. He was on anti-psychotic drugs, Hucker said, but he saw little improvement and told the judge, "he has shown no insight into his illness."

"What we're getting now are variations on why he did what he did," he told the judge. "He's drawing on his delusions for explanations."

Hucker said he had no doubts McGonegal was delusional when he stabbed a complete stranger.

Copyright © 2011 The Whig Standard

March 2011

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