Mental illness cited as reason for not-guilty plea in Grand Forks murder trial
Kimberly Noyes pled not guilty in court today as the trial of the murder of 12-year-old John Fulton got underway in Rossland, B.C. In the first day of what is slated as a three week trial, both the prosecution and defense attorneys agree that the central issue for the court to determine is the mental state of Kimberly Noyes, accused of the second degree murder of Fulton in Grand Forks, B.C. Noyes’ defense attorney, Deanne Gafar stated that she will show Noyes was unable to understand the nature of her actions at the time of the tragedy.
Crown Prosecutor Philip Seagram’s opened the day with the admission of fact, describing the death of Fulton from a stab wound in the neck. The weapon was an eight-and-a-half inch long kitchen knife that matched a set in Noyes’ kitchen. The loss of blood from the wound led to his death within five minutes. While Gafar would not comment on the approach that she will take with her defense, she indicated that Noyes’ mental illness led to the tragedy that unfolded in Grand Forks last August. Noyes had been diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder in 2006. “We will see how the evidence unfolds,” said Gafar. “There was no preliminary hearing so when the community health care witnesses testify we will see where the evidence goes. It’s a mental illness and I am without a doubt that the evidence will support (the defense.) The bottom line is that this is a tragedy without words for so many people. Our task here is to find out what happened.” Seagram outlined the events of the days from the initial time that Fulton, who was last seen on his front steps reading, to the discovery of his body in Noyes living room and the subsequent arrest and police interviews of Noyes. He outlined the deterioration of Noyes’ mental health from early 2009 and her arrest under the mental health act in April. Seagram established that Noyes was in and out of the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital during March and April, and had received medication that she admits she had not taken for two weeks prior to the date of the murder. Forensic evidence from the crime scene indicated that Fulton was killed where he was found, and that he had injuries consistent with defense wounds. When he was killed, his attacker was either on top of him or kneeling beside him when she stabbed him. When Noyes was arrested she had bruising and cuts on her hands, and her undergarments had blood stains that matched Fulton’s. Other blood-stained clothing was found in her main bathroom. Forensics indicated that Fulton was killed within two hours from a meal he had at home on Aug. 15, although his body was not discovered until Aug. 17. The first witness for the prosecution was a friend of Noyes’, Rod Kabatoff. Kabatoff described his interactions with Noyes from when they met in 2008 to their growing friendship in early 2009, and his attempts to support her as she experienced first a manic state during March and early April, then a deep depression. Kabatoff had tried to continue to make contact with Noyes, checking on her regularly even though she stopped allowing him into her home in July and kept conversations short. He had also tried to talk with local mental health workers about her state of mind when he was worried about her. Noyes frequently told Kabatoff she was tired and sleepy when he visited, and he gave evidence that she rarely left her home throughout July and August. “She would answer sometimes, other times she was sleeping or not there. When she did answer, she would poke her head out and block the doorway,” said Kabatoff. “She’d say ‘I’m really tired and I want to sleep.’” Kabatoff kept up visiting about twice a week despite her lack of response up until her arrest. On cross-examination by Gafar, Kabatoff said that prior to her change of mental health Noyes was a generous, thoughtful, kind and easy-to-talk to person. He witnessed her change over just a few months to a non-responsive person who did not wash, became disheveled, wore ragged clothes and whose eyes were sunken in and appeared aged. Her utilities, telephone and internet services had been cut off and she had received a notice for failing to pay rent. The last two witnesses of the day included Cst. Alexander Bell of the Grand Forks RCMP detachment who had interviewed Noyes at her home during the search for Fulton when she denied having seen the boy. He spoke about her state at the time that he talked with her. “Her tone of voice was very monotone – there wasn’t a lot of feeling behind that,” said Bell. “Her voice sounded like someone who was depressed. It sounded down. Her facial expression did not change.” Bell was also one of the officers involved with Noyes when she was taken to the Boundary Hospital for treatment under the mental health act in April and testified that, in contrast to his interview of her in August, she was loud, angry, and her emotions ranged from sad to angry in just seconds. Cprl. Julie Rockwell of the Southeast District major crimes unit of the RCMP finished the day with testimony about the time she spent with Noyes at the detachment while escorting her to interviews and phoning counsel. Rockwell said that during the time she observed Noyes she was co-operative, polite, quiet, and low-voiced. Although Noyes could respond to all questions posed to her in context, she did not show emotion and was very monotone. “What struck me different from other people I have been in this situation with is that she didn’t appear to show any emotion,” said Rockwell. Seagram refused to comment while the case is before the court. Gafar said that the tragedy that played out in Grand Forks was sad for everyone involved. “This had everything to do with my client’s mental illness but that should in no way diminish the loss to the Fulton family. It is real and indescribable,” said Gafar.