Man found not criminally responsible for Nanaimo coffee shop murder

Psychiatrists testified that James Turok was experiencing a psychotic episode during the attack and was unable to know that what he was doing was wrong, Associate Judge Heather Holmes said.

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A man who stabbed a 79-year-old man to death in a random attack at a Nanaimo coffee shop has been found not criminally responsible due to mental disorder.

On the morning of February 12, 2022, James Carey Turok walked into Buzz Coffee House, where Eric Kutzner was in the kitchen preparing baked goods. Kutzner, who often helped out at the bakery owned by his daughter, had left the door open waiting for staff to arrive, and Turok entered.

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He stabbed Kutzner 12 times in the face, chest and back and put a rag in his mouth, Deputy Chief Justice Heather Holmes said Wednesday at the British Columbia Supreme Court in Nanaimo, before declaring that Turok was not criminally responsible for the act.

Staff members arrived around 8:45 a.m. and found the bakery door locked. They could see Kutzner’s blood-soaked legs and Turok walking around dripping with blood, Holmes said.

Officers responding to the call found Turok hiding under a desk in the bakery’s office, next to the kitchen. He resisted arrest and made “bizarre, often incomprehensible statements,” calling Kutzner a zombie.

Turok repeatedly gave statements immediately afterward and in early court appearances that he believed Kutzner was a zombie or a bag of pus and that he was not human, Holmes said. He also demanded to be charged with treason at one point for posts he made criticizing Queen Elizabeth.

Turok’s mental health history dates back at least 12 years and includes hospitalizations and certifications under the Mental Health Act, Holmes said. She has been diagnosed with bipolar schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia, she said.

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Two psychiatrists testified that Turok was experiencing a psychotic episode during the attack and was unable to realize that what he was doing was wrong, Holmes said.

While in police cells after the attack, Turok tried to contact Elon Musk for help, “thinking he was Russian, that they were connected and that together they had infinite potential,” Holmes said.

Turok has a pattern of going into remission while taking antipsychotic medications and relapsing when he stops taking them, he said. He had been off medication for almost a year and a half when he killed Kutzner.

Turok acknowledged that he killed Kutzner in the “horrible manner” described and asked the court to find him not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder, he said.

“I find that his mental disorder made him unable to appreciate the nature and quality of his actions, because his psychosis caused him to believe that Mr. Kutzner was not human. Under that delusional belief, Mr. Turok could not appreciate that he was killing a person,” Holmes said.

The verdict does not mean Turok has been found innocent and does not free him from state control, Holmes said.

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He ordered that Turok, who has been in custody since his arrest shortly after the murder, be held at the Coquitlam Forensic Psychiatric Hospital pending a review board disposition.

Holmes said he doesn’t want Kutzner’s family to feel ignored in the court process.

“I wish to expressly acknowledge the horrific nature and circumstances of the senseless events against Mr. Kutzner that ended his life. And the egregious and, no doubt, lasting effects that the offense must have had on those close to him,” he said.

In a statement after his death, Kutzner’s family called him a “vibrant member of society” and an advocate for the disabled in Creston and senior housing in Nanaimo.

In 2016, while living in Creston, Kutzner received the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award for restoring a property that housed and employed people with physical and developmental disabilities.

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