A teenage girl wrote the words “this is amazing grace” on a piece of paper moments before she and her friend were attacked by a man with a knife inside a British Columbia high school, a trial heard Wednesday.
The girl, who was in Grade 9 at the time and cannot be named because of a publication ban, spoke in a video statement played in B.C. Supreme Court about the attack that killed 13-year-old Letisha Reimer.
She said she and Reimer were in the rotunda of Abbotsford Senior Secondary School at around 2 p.m. on Nov. 1, 2016. They were supposed to be studying, she recalled with a sad smile, but she was writing out Christian music lyrics while Reimer took photos to post on social media later.
“Then I just heard her scream,” the girl remembered through tears.
“I don’t remember any pain. I can’t really describe that. I don’t remember what he looked like. Just very mean. And I just remember running as fast as I could to the nearest classroom.”
The girl attended court on Wednesday and listened from the gallery, as did Reimer’s mother and family members who wiped away tears. Gabriel Klein, who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and aggravated assault, kept his head down in the prisoner’s box.
The girl recalled she could still hear Reimer’s screams as she ran toward the classroom. When she arrived, she dropped to the floor and teachers and students surrounded her.
“They were crying, and they didn’t know what to do. People were taking their clothes off and their scarves and (holding) them to my wounds,” she said.
Police and paramedics arrived, and she remembered being very cold as she was loaded into a medical helicopter. She recovered from stab wounds to the right side of her chest, back left shoulder, right middle finger and eye.
She had never seen Klein before, she told a police officer in the video, and she struggled to describe how he looked.
“I just remember he was really mean. I can’t describe it. Mean,” she said, her voice shaking.
The court has heard that Klein’s defence will be that he is not criminally responsible for the attack because of a mental disorder. He was held in a forensic psychiatric hospital following the stabbings and deemed mentally fit to stand trial earlier this year.
The trial has also heard that an Abbotsford shelter provided Klein with a map to the local library so he could email his mother. At the time, the library was connected to the school library.
Two witnesses testified earlier Wednesday that they saw Klein walking near the school in the hours before the stabbings. He was grunting loudly, making high-pitched noises and seemed to be in distress, they said.
A student who saw the attack said in an audio statement played for the court that the man pushed the unnamed teenage girl off her chair and began stabbing her while Reimer screamed for help.
“He came pretty fast without warning and he seemed pretty angry,” the witness said of the attacker.
Neither the student witness nor the girl who survived saw what happened to Reimer, but a teacher who discovered the man attacking her delivered emotional testimony about her final moments.
Ken Lachelt heard screaming and ran out of his classroom to see a man on top of Reimer, he said as he started to cry.
“His arms were jabbing in towards Letisha’s body,” Lachelt recalled. “I could tell he was pushing as hard as he could and struggling. … He seemed to be very determined to be over top of her and doing what he was doing.”
Reimer was “fighting,” he sobbed.
“She was pushing him off, kicking, and by the time I got there, her hands and arms were over her face,” he said.
Lachelt said he yelled at the man to get off Reimer. Klein stood up and that was when the teacher saw the “very large,” at least 15-centimetre knife, he said. Lachelt then yelled at him to drop the knife and Klein let it clatter to the ground.
“He didn’t look angry. He didn’t look shocked. He just looked like somebody who had gotten into a confrontation,” Lachelt testified.
Klein eventually backed up to a spot where the principal and vice-principal were able to subdue him, Lachelt said.
He ran back to Reimer. Her eyes were closed but she was still alive, he told the court.
“I told her she’s going to be OK,” he said.
He and two other school employees tried to find the source of her bleeding and cover the wounds, but there were “many holes,” he said.
“We continued to give her as much love and support as we could. We continued to try to find where the blood was coming from. But we could feel her breathing stop and we could feel her pulse fade.”
Laura Kane , The Canadian Press