A Toronto-area man who claimed an internal voice told him to brutally stab his girlfriend was found guilty of second-degree murder after an Ontario judge found his mental illness did not spur the slaying, nor did it prevent him from knowing what he did was wrong.
Richard Pereira’s lawyers had argued he should be found not criminally responsible for stabbing Kathryn Horne, a friend turned romantic partner, more than 30 times in the basement of his Brampton, Ont., home in March 2015.
In a decision released last week, an Ontario court found that while Pereira had a long history of mental illness, his account — in which he claimed a voice told him Horne, 58, had to die because she was part of a plot against him — lacked in credibility.
Ontario Superior Court Justice David E. Harris said there was “virtually no indication” that Pereira heard voices over roughly a decade of mental health crises and treatment, and he did not mention any such voices on the night in question.
There were many other inconsistencies, the judge said, noting that after Pereira took the stand, his own lawyers conceded the man’s version of events should not be relied on.
Instead, Harris said, it appears more likely that Pereira, who was 36 at the time of the killing, flew into a violent rage when Horne tried to end their relationship.
“There is little doubt that Mr. Pereira felt threatened by unknown people and forces and felt that his life was in danger on the day of the homicide. But outside of his own evidence on the witness stand, there was precious little evidence to show that he felt threatened by Ms. Horne,” Harris wrote.
“Ms. Horne was helping Mr. Pereira keep his paranoia at bay. It will never be known whether she was a true believer or was just trying to placate him. … The tendency of the evidence on this issue taken as a whole, is to show that there was a fellowship between them against Mr. Pereira’s demons.”
Court documents show the pair met at a Goodlife gym in downtown Toronto where Pereira was a trainer and became friends before starting a relationship in 2014.
Horne had a well-paying job at a major financial corporation and eventually began giving Pereira money, court heard. In the months before her death, she deposited roughly $10,000 into his account, the ruling said.
On the day of the killing, Horne had taken a bus to Brampton and arrived at the home Pereira shared with his mother around 5 p.m., the document said.
Little is known about what happened that evening, the judge wrote. Pereira called a mental health crisis line just before 9:30 p.m. over feelings of anxiety and stress. About three hours later, his mother called 911 requesting an ambulance.
When police arrived, they found Pereira sitting on the couch with his head in his hands, the ruling said. He told them people were putting black magic on him and trying to kill him, prompting officers to believe he was a risk to himself and needed to be brought in under the Mental Health Act.
Pereira then told police they should look in the basement because he had done something bad, the document said. He added he did not want his mother to see, and that he would go to jail forever.
Pereira’s mother found Horne’s body inside a cellar by the basement bathroom, stabbed in the neck and torso, the decision said. Efforts had been made to wipe up the blood, it said.
Defence lawyers initially argued, based on what Pereira had told psychiatrists, that he heard a voice he knew as Gabor while walking down to the basement bathroom with Horne, the ruling said. The voice told him she was part of the conspiracy against him and that he needed to kill her to protect himself, it said.
But the defence altered its position in light of Pereira’s “disastrous performance” on the stand, which saw him contradict himself on a number of points, including Horne’s reasons for giving him money, it said.
“Sometimes he said that she was paying for sex with him, other times he staunchly disavowed this. Given the defence concession, there is no need to total the inconsistencies or attempt to reconcile or determine where the truth lies,” Harris wrote.
Meanwhile, one of Horne’s friends gave “deceptively simple but powerful evidence” that provided an alternate narrative, the judge said. The friend testified Horne had said earlier in the day that she was going to see Pereira that night probably for the last time and would report back the next day.
“It is readily inferable that Ms. Horne was going to tell Mr. Pereira that their relationship was over, and she did not want to see him again,” Harris wrote.
It is “much more likely” that Pereira erupted in anger when faced with the end of the relationship, particularly given its importance in his life, the judge said.
“Their relationship was important for his sexual gratification but there was more to it than that. There was clearly a good deal of affection between them,” he wrote.
“Furthermore, as mentioned, she had supported him financially to a significant degree. Losing her emotional and financial support could well have been devastating to him, particularly in the state he was in.”
There is also no support for the argument that Pereira’s psychosis made him incapable of knowing that killing Horne was wrong, the judge said.
Pereira took steps to cover up the slaying, including disposing of Horne’s cellphone, her clothing and her jewelry, he wrote. The attempts to mop up the blood in the basement bathroom also count as concealment, he said. His comments to police that he had done something bad and would go to jail forever also demonstrate consciousness of guilt, Harris said.
The location and number of the stab wounds, meanwhile, support a finding that Pereira intended to kill Horne, he wrote.
Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years.
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press