Investigation Opened into Murder of Canadian Gay Activist
Government officials in Nova Scotia are seeking to determine how a suspect accused of beating gay activist Raymond Taavel to death was granted a temporary release from a psychiatric hospital for patients in custody of the correctional system.
Andre Denny, 32, is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Taavel, 49, early Tuesday outside Menz Bar. The prominent gay activist had tried to break up a fight between two men, according to the Globe and Mail. Denny was arrested in a nearby alley.
According to the CBC, Denny was a patient at the East Coast Forensic Hospital, where a review board composed of lawyers and psychiatrists issued him a temporary pass on Monday. He did not return to the facility as required that night, although he has since been returned to the facility.
Denny was first admitted to the hospital in 2009 and then returned to a small Native American community on Cape Breton Island after a successful stay. He returned to the hospital last year after he was found not criminally responsible for assault causing bodily harm. By the time he killed Taavel, according to the CBC, his history was clear enough for the board to recommend that he be granted a conditional discharged.
According to the Globe and Mail, Denny’s lawyer said during his first court appearance Wednesday that he has no history of homophobia but is “prone to violence when off his medication and intoxicated.” He said that Denny, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager, should not have been granted the one-hour leave from the hospital. When the accused was led into the courtroom, he told reporters, “Self-defense. What can I say?”
Peter Lederman, the chair of the hospital review board for 10 years, called the killing “extremely unfortunate” and a “horrible occurrence.” The province has launched an investigation into the policies and procedures surrounding the incident with a progress report due in 30 days.
Denny was ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment and his case was adjourned until May 17, the Globe and Mail reported.