The quest for justice for Derek Descoteau and closure in his murder case for family members is becoming increasingly frustrating.
May 20 marks the sixth anniversary since Descoteau, just 20 years old, was killed and his girlfriend Janelle Guyatt seriously wounded in a knife attack at the home of Descoteau’s father Paul in Chemainus in 2016.
Colin John was charged with the second-degree murder of Descoteau and attempted murder of Guyatt, later downgraded to aggravated assault in a plea deal. He has been at the Colony Farm Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam ever since, undergoing a series of assessments over the years while the court case has frequently been delayed and COVID adding another hurdle in the process.
John was eventually found fit to stand trial and the prosecution wrapped up its case in August of 2019 before defence lawyer Scott Sheets lobbied for an assessment of John’s mental fitness.
Further evaluations were conducted, then John pleaded guilty at the Victoria courthouse on Nov. 30 of last year to the second-degree murder of Descoteau and aggravated assault of Guyatt.
Descoteau’s mom Brenda Smith was pleased the case seemed headed for a resolution.
Then it took a sudden turn again and it’s almost back to square one.
“Everything’s now moved to the fall because they are pursuing the not criminally responsible at the time he did it,” Smith said. “We are so livid. We are sick to our stomachs.”
In January of this year, the case resumed at the Duncan courthouse with a date set for a sentencing hearing while a psychiatric assessment of John was also to be completed and included in a pre-sentencing report.
Further postponements took the case to a hearing on March 11 when the judge ordered a not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder assessment report where a psychiatrist prepares an opinion of John’s mental state at the time of the offences.
The report normally takes 30 to 60 days and was not ready when John appeared in court again in mid-April. The psychiatrist asked for a 30-day extension that was granted, leading to a scheduled appearance before the judge by telephone earlier this month to determine the next steps.
The decision was eventually made during the latest court appearance last week that John would be pursuing the not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder defence and there now needs to be a hearing on the issue.
Carla Sampson, program manager for the Cowichan Valley Regional RCMP Victim Services Team, informed the family expert evidence now needs to be obtained and could not be done in time for the pending May dates, thus pushing the case into the fall.
“Right now, we are all so mad,” said Smith. “How can we go six years? He pleaded guilty.”
Neither Sampson nor Crown Prosecutor Ken Paziuk could be reached for comment.
Smith said she’s hoping a meeting can be set up with Crown because “we want answers.”
Smith and ex-husband Paul Descoteau also lost another son, Dustin Descoteau, in a car accident three years prior to Derek’s murder.
There’s a memorial site for the Descoteau brothers on the Pacific Circle Route between Mesachie Lake and Port Renfrew and the family intended to gather there on the weekend to mark the occasion.
The anniversary also falls on the same day this year for the first time since the murder took place, the Friday of the Victoria Day long weekend.