Richard Fairgrieve to remain in psychiatric care, unfit for trial in Vernon murder

Unfit for trial in murder

Richard Fairgrieve has been found unfit to stand trial – again.

Justice Alison Beames gave her judgment Tuesday via closed circuit TV in BC Supreme Court in Vernon.

Fairgrieve is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Willy Bartz in Vernon.

Bartz was found brutally murdered in his Sunset Suites apartment in June of 2017.

While in custody awaiting trial, Fairgrieve suffered a number of strokes and was found unfit to stand trial and answer to the murder charge against him due to the effect of the strokes on his ability to understand the court process.

In November of last year, the BC Review Board reversed its early decision and suggested he may indeed be well enough to stand trial.

All parties appeared via video conference, in which Fairgrieve remained standing for the entire 40-minute decision.

The decision follows three days of testimony earlier this month in which Beames heard from Fairgrieve’s doctor, occupational therapist, and lawyer.

Beames said Fairgrieve testified with short answers, long pauses and having questions repeated. She found his presence child-like.

"In the context of a full trial, it is difficult to imagine how his deficits could be accommodated," she said.

"A courtroom jury trial is not a serene place devoid of distractions. Counsel and witnesses cannot be expected to speak extraordinarily slowly, using only simple words, and without reference to complex, novel or abstract concepts."

Fairgrieve will be returned to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Port Coquitlam, where he cleans tables and waters plants while receiving speech and physiotherapy.

"The accused will remain in ward's jurisdiction until he is either found fit to stand trial or the court grants a stay based on the finding of permanent unfitness."

In August 2020, Jacqueline Nicole Leavins pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of Bartz.

Leavins was originally charged with second-degree murder, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge, and was sentenced to 10 years in jail.

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