Senior won’t face murder charge

The case of a 95-year-old Vernon man charged with second degree murder has been dropped

The case of a 95-year-old Vernon man charged with second degree murder has been dropped.

Crown lawyer Stephen Lawhead announced in Vernon Provincial Court Wednesday morning that a stay of proceedings has been issued in the matter against John (Jack) Daymouth Furman.

“All of the available medical and psychiatric information indicates Mr. Furman is unfit to stand trial and there is no reasonable chance he will ever be fit,” said Lawhead.

“Any safety concerns regarding Mr. Furman are being dealt with outside of the criminal justice system appropriately.

“In all circumstances there’s no public interest in continuing with the prosecution and today the charge was stayed.”

Furman, a decorated Second World War veteran who suffers from severe advanced dementia and is being treated in a Kamloops care facility, was charged with second degree murder in August in the death of William (Bill) May, 85.

The two men had been roommates for four days at the Polson extended care facility, with Furman being admitted to the facility only 10 days before.

On Aug. 18, shortly before 11 p.m., RCMP officers were dispatched to the facility after staff called 911 to report that Furman had assaulted May, who died of his injuries.

Police reported there was no history of aggressive behaviour on Furman’s part at Polson or on his own in the community.

Furman was taken into custody and, based on information available at that time, Crown approved the second degree murder charge.

The evidence indicated Furman caused May’s death but, as written in a press release from the Criminal Justice Branch, “it was clear from the outset that Mr. Furman’s mental state at the time of the alleged offence would be a significant issue at any trial.

“On the evidence available to Crown counsel, it appeared that the assault occurred while Mr. Furman was in a delusional state arising out of his advanced dementia.”

May’s family were informed that a stay of proceedings would be issued a couple of days ago.

“Obviously  it’s a very tragic situation for them but in all the circumstances they were very understanding,” said Lawhead.

Furman was placed in the Kamloops facility shortly after his arrest and has remained there as part of his conditions on the murder charge. He is receiving psychiatric and medial care.

How long he stays there, said Lawhead, is up to those treating him.

Interior Health is conducting an internal review into the incident.

“I can’t get into specifics (of the review) but I would like to identify the fact that the Criminal Justice Branch decision speaks to the complex nature of the situation and the complexity of providing care with debilitating illnesses such as dementia,” said Karen Bloemink, IH’s executive director for residential services.

“We’re nearing the end of review for this incident. We’re undertaking a review so we can enhance the safety for the residents in our care in a broader sense.”

Bloemink said the August incident is a, “tragic situation for everyone that was involved at the facility where this incident occurred, specifically the residents and their families but also for the staff.”

Early details of the internal review are protected under the B.C. Evidence Act.