Grossmith family tragedy blamed on mental disorder

Second degree murder trial of Conor Grossmith results in not guilty verdict but he will be placed in a psychiatric treatment facility

The trial of Conor Grossmith, accused of second-degree murder in the killing of his mother Kathleen Gilchrist in 2012 in Kelowna, drew to a quick close Friday after five days of testimony.

B.C. Supreme Court Judge Alison Beames took just 30 minutes to deliver her verdict, one the Crown and Grossmith’s lawyer both asked for—not guilty by reason of a mental disorder.

Grossmith, who suffers from severe bi-polar disorder and who was severely intoxicated on the night his mother was killed,  does not remember the incident. Both the Crown and defence agreed he went to his mother’s bedroom in an agitated state with a hammer he took from the garage in the family home and bludgeoned her. She died nine days later in Kelowna General Hospital after never regaining consciousness following the attack.

The court was told his father, Harry Grossmith, discovered his son holding the bloody hammer outside the bedroom door home,  saw how badly injured wife inside the room and  subsequently struggled with his son. He threw Conor down a staircase and barricaded himself in the bedroom from where he called an ambulance and police.

Conor Grossmith was apprehended by police in the garden of the family home shortly after they arrived.

As Harry Grossmith quietly wiped away tears in the courtroom gallery, the court heard how he loved his son and badly wants treatment for him. He even fought hard have him allowed to attend his mother’s funeral.

“Despite the torture of you’re illness, you are a very lucky man,” Beames told Conor Grossmith in court after delivering her verdict. “You are loved by your family. I wish you the best of luck in controlling your illness.”

Outside the court, Harry Grossmith read a prepared statement and did not take questions from the media. He said his his wife anchored her family’s lives with love, compassion and wisdom. And she is missed by family, friends and loved ones.

“How do you summerize such a tragedy? How do you encapsulate a loss in this way? I can’t. So I won’t,” he said in his statemetn.

But as a father, he said he hopes that with the verdict of the court his son can get the help he needs to deal with his mental illness and one day be able to move on.

Crown lawyer Frank Dubenski said Conor Grossmith would be held in custody until a review panel hearing determined what should happen to him next. He said he did not expect Grossmith would be released by the panel but instead go to the provincial forensic psychiatric  facility  in Port Coquitlam in the Lower Mainland and be held and treated there. In a year’s time, there would be another hearing to determine the further steps required for his treatment.

The court heard that Grossmith’s mental disorder could be traced back to 2009 and each year around September—when the murder occurred in 2012— he would get worse.

His father testified that his son appeared to be “cycling up” in terms of severe mood swings in the days leading up to the death of his wife.

As part of the court proceedings, three psychiatrists evaluated Conor Grossmith, with all three confirming the bi-polar discorder. But one put more emphasis on the large amount of wine he drank with his parents on the night of the murder.

Beames, however, said it was clear, without the mental disorder, it’s unlikely the killing would have occurred.