A judge has found Kellie Johnson not criminally responsible in the death of her son, five-year-old Jonathan Vetter.
Johnson stabbed Vetter to death in 2014 as he slept in a bunk bed he shared with his older brother.
Three psychiatrists who interviewed Johnson after Vetter’s death all diagnosed her with schizophrenia. Court heard her history of mental health problems began in 2008, with some suggestion symptoms could have begun presenting themselves as early as 2006.
During the trial, court heard Johnson told both police and doctors that a hallucinated character referred to as The Woman was threatening to kill her. She said she was terrified Vetter would be molested by his father once she was gone.
Johnson told police The Woman told her Vetter would eventually grow up to become a molester himself and this would damn his soul to hell for eternity. She told police and psychiatrists that by killing Vetter, she thought she was sending him to heaven, and that this was the only way to keep him safe.
Judge: At time Johnson killed Vetter,she believed she was saving him from hell. She wasn’t making rational choices.
— Bryn Levy (@BrynLevy) October 25, 2016
Johnson has been held at the Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford since her arrest.
Speaking to reporters outside court, defence lawyer Leslie Sullivan said Tuesday’s decision means her client will finally begin getting treatment.
“Ms. Johnson was basically being maintained but not being actively treated for her mental illness. And now that this is behind her and behind them, they can focus more on that,” Sullivan said.
In Canada, a decision of not criminally responsible is not the same as an acquittal.
The verdict places Johnson under the authority of the Saskatchewan Review Board, an independent tribunal of legal and mental health professionals. The board is tasked with determining if Johnson poses a risk to public safety, and whether she needs to be kept in custody at a mental health facility or can be allowed back into the community.
Sullivan said Johnson will have her first meeting with the board in the next few months. She said there is no timeline on when someone could be deemed safe to leave custody.
Sullivan said it’s clear a mental health facility is a more appropriate setting for Johnson than a prison.
“The odd time when Ms. Johnson had been transferred to the women’s correctional centre in Prince Albert, Pinegrove, she deteriorated. Her mental health deteriorated very quickly. So this is certainly the best for her, and I would also say the best for the public,” she said.