Nathan Mayrhofer. (Photo contributed)

Vernon killer granted absolute discharge, victim’s family responds

Kenneth Scott Barter was found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder in 2011 on a charge of second-degree murder of Nathan Mayrhofer.

Editor’s Note: This story contains graphic information regarding a crime. Reader discretion is advised.

The family of a Vernon man murdered in 2010 has expressed concern after the decision of an absolute discharge was handed down to his killer this month.

Kenneth Scott Barter was found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder on Jan. 10, 2011 on a charge of second-degree murder in connection with the death and dismemberment of his friend Nathan Mayrhofer in a Vernon apartment building in August 2010.

Related: Vernon killer denied absolute discharge by B.C. Court of Appeal

Related: Barter committed to psych hospital

In January 2015, the B.C. Review Board granted Barter a conditional discharge, meaning he could leave the facility as long as he was escorted. That status was continued after reviews in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

But this month, the review board announced in a news release it voted to give Barter an “absolute discharge disposition,” meaning a finding of guilt is made but no conviction is registered, and they are not given any conditions to follow, including a probation order. An absolute discharge will stay on an offender’s criminal record for one year after the date they received the discharge.

In August 2010, Barter and Nathan Mayrhofer had been out drinking when Mayrhofer spent the night at Barter’s apartment.

Early the next morning, Barter struck a sleeping Mayrhofer over the head with a hammer, put a plastic bag over his head and dragged his body to the bathtub. After leaving to go get cigarettes, Barter returned and dismembered Mayrhofer’s body, cleaned up his apartment, and disposed of the cutting tools. He told his parents the next day what he had done.

Barter had no prior history of violence.

Since absolute discharge was granted, Mayrhofer’s sister, Becky, said her family “completely disagrees with the decision and are very upset.”

She said her family attended the hearing but that the decision wasn’t announced until the next day. She said they are worried because this release means he will no longer have restrictions that they feel would be necessary to ensure he is taking his medication and won’t reoffend.

“Obviously there’s a transition stage but essentially it means that he has the freedom like you or I do because they consider him to be low-risk because he isn’t showing any symptoms of his mental illness,” she said.

“But we’re worried because if he goes off his meds or begins doing drugs — espeially marijuana — or drinking alcohol, he could spiral and who’s to say this won’t happen again? We feel that he’s still a danger and should be checked on to make sure he’s maintaining his mental health.”

Becky said that she is also worried that he will return to Vernon, where some of her family still resides.

“It’s frustrating because he hasn’t showed any remorse. He hasn’t apologized to us unless the board has questioned him or asked directly,” she explained. “Nathan and Ken were friends and even if the board feels he’s no longer (a) threat, yes, we all have to move past it but this is something you need to remember happened so it won’t happen again.”

She said her family has already begun lobbying for violent offenders to be mandatorily supervised to make sure they are taking their proper medication and have their mental health assessed periodically.

“It’s really frustrating but we’re not giving up and we are hoping to see some changes in the law or at least bring some light to the subject. It’s going to be an uphill battle but we’ve got to start somewhere. It may not do anything for Nathan but it could help someone else,” she said. “We finally have a voice again and this time, we’re going to use it.”

Related: Human remains tied to convicted B.C. killer

Related: First-degree murder charge laid in Vernon cold case

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