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Accused found not criminally responsible for Nanaimo coffee house killing

James Turok faced second-degree murder charge related to fatal 2022 stabbing at Buzz Coffee House

Warning: Contains details of a murder.

A B.C. supreme court justice has determined a man accused of stabbing another man to death at a Nanaimo coffee house two years ago is not criminally responsible for his actions.

James Carey Turok, who was 30 when he was arrested and charged with second-degree murder after a Feb. 12, 2022 incident at the former Buzz Coffee House where Eric Kutzner was killed. A hearing to determine whether Turok is criminally responsible by way of mental disorder was heard in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo this week, and on Wednesday, March 27, associate chief justice Heather Holmes rendered her decision.

The café door was unlocked prior to opening to allow employees in and Kutzner, who arrived at 7:30 a.m., had been baking when Turok gained entry and stabbed Kutzner 12 times, the judge stated during her ruling. Turok made incomprehensible statements, stating that Kutzner was a zombie. Turok was found hiding under a desk at the coffee shop and resisted arrest.

Three days before to the incident, he had gone to the hospital in an agitated state, but was unable to see the psychiatrist he had requested and left in an angry state.

Taking the stand on behalf of Basil McCormick, Crown counsel, on Tuesday, March 26, was Dr. Robert Lacroix, forensic psychiatrist and member of the B.C. Review Board, who examined Turok.

In Lacroix’s opinion, Turok suffers from a chronic and persistent disorder characterized as schizoaffective disorder-bipolar type. It involves the presence of affective symptoms that represent disturbances in mood. Turok responded well to anti-psychotic medication and would do well in the community, according to Lacroix, but would then find himself re-certified and back in hospital after stopping medication.

At the time of the incident, Turok incorporated Kutzner into his paranoid belief system and it was Lacroix’s opinion that the accused was not able to make a rational decision to responding to real or imagined threats given his condition.

Themes of Turok’s symptoms were delusions of self-importance and his belief that he is a medical intuit who can heal and guide people.

Dr. Andrew Kolchak, a forensic psychiatrist, testified for defence counsel Mark Swartz and Chantal Paquette on March 25. Citing Kolchak, Swartz said that at the time of the offence, Turok was actively psychotic and his executive function was affected to the extent that he would not be able to make sound decisions.

Based on evidence, the judge said she was satisfied that the accused was not capable of appreciating the nature of his actions or knowing his actions were wrong.

Turok was present in court, wearing a red Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre jogging suit.

The hearing began Monday, March 25.

Jeff Kutzner, Eric’s son, said the verdict was expected and said he hopes Turok gets the treatment he needs. Jeff expressed fond memories of father, stating he did a lot to help people with mental health issues. Eric Kutzner opened a centre for people with autism in Creston and started a seniors’ housing society in Nanaimo.

“He was always out to help people,” Jeff said. “I want people to know he was recognized by the government for his volunteer work and it’s just not something he deserved.”

McCormick did not wish to comment, nor did Turok’s family.

Swartz, speaking generally, said more investment must be made by government on mental health services and facilities.

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