CALGARY — The families of five young people killed in a stabbing at a house party in Calgary two years ago have had their say in court.
In an unusual move at the trial of Matthew de Grood, an agreement was reached to allow members of each family give a tribute to their loved ones.
The tributes are similar to victim impact statements given during sentencing, but are to have no impact on the final verdict.
Patty Segura says her son Jordan would help perfect strangers and gave away “hugs for free”, while Lawrence Hong was remembered by his brother Miles as a friend to many.
Kaitlin Perras, Josh Hunter and Zackariah Rathwell were also killed in the attack.
After an emotional morning the trial was adjourned until Wednesday, at which time the defence will begin its case.
His lawyer has indicated he plans to argue his client was not criminally responsible for the killings.
De Grood has admitted he killed the five, but has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
Here’s what we know about the five.
Josh Hunter, a native of Priddis, a hamlet located in the foothills of the Rockies, was a number of things: he was an accounting student at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business; he was a hotel concierge at the International Hotel Suites Calgary; but, perhaps more than anything else, he was a passionate music fan. Hunter, who turned 22 less than a month ago, played the drums, and, after becoming a regular in the Calgary live music scene by attending a number of shows, he teamed up with friends, including Zackariah Rathwell, to form Zackariah and the Prophets. The band had their release party for their EP, Goodnight Icarus, on Saturday; the show sold out.
On Facebook, Hunter said he felt great about their performance, and was thrilled about the turnout. “That was hands down one of the best nights of my life!” he enthused the next morning. “So grateful for all the amazing people around me.”
“They were just a really good band,” said Arlen Smith, the operating manager of the Palomino, a bar where they played. “They were super nice kids, man– nice, happy young kids.”
“Josh was a great drummer, he definitely held the band together,” said Spencer Brown, the entertainment and marketing manager for the Palomino, who said it was local musicians who were the first to tell him about the tragedy on Tuesday morning. “I noticed the level of musicianship in the band had improved fivefold for their release show. They were definitely on the up-and-up as a band.
“It’s a very sad dichotomy that they went from a high point in their musical career to the terrible events of [Tuesday] morning.”
The lead singer and guitarist in Zackariah and the Prophets, Zackariah Rathwell, was an “esteemed” 23-year-old first-year student at the Alberta College of Art and Design, according to the school.
On Reddit, Rathwell’s brother wrote: “I lost my idol. I wanted to share with all of you just how incredible he was. This tragedy will stay with me until the end of my days but I need to focus on the positives of who he was and what he meant to those around him. My brother touched the lives of so many people by being one of the most genuine people ever and I strive every day to be even half as good as him.”
Spencer Brown, the entertainment and marketing manager for the Palomino, remembers Zach as capably bearing the mantle of being a band’s lead singer. “Zach was an engaging and fun frontman, which is what you want in an eponymous band,” said Brown. “If you’re going to lend your name to something, you better be worthy of doing so, and he definitely was.”
Brown was also struck by the enthusiasm of the band, and how they were more than performers, but genuine supporters of music and regulars at the Palomino. “They were polite, passionate young men and musicians. I can’t count the number of times they came in as supporters and patrons of live music.
“There was never any attitude, there were never any expectations, they were always happy to play to 10 people, they were always happy to play to 100 people. Their positivity and gratitude never wavered.”
With Rathwell and Hunter’s passing, Barry Mason and Kyle Tenove–the remaining members of Zackariah and the Prophets–announced on their Facebook page that the group would be disbanding. “We didn’t lose two bandmates, we lost two brothers. Their shining shenanigans and shining light will always be with us. ZATP is done, because the band was all four of us. Without all four of us the band doesn’t exist. We love you all. And we loved them more than anything in the world.”
In high school, when he worked at a local movie theatre, Jordan Segura would occasionally organize private movie screenings at midnight. “He’d invite between 15 and 20 of his closest friends and we’d have an entire movie theatre to ourselves,” says Jordan Fabro, a friend from high school. “He was definitely not a selfish kind of guy. He tried to give as much as he could.”
That benevolence translated to his work life as well. This coming summer, Segura was supposed to begin working full-time as a funeral attendant at McInnis & Holloway Funeral Homes. He was hired a year ago as a funeral attendant—driving limousines, ushering and helping with family visitation—and the company hoped he would one day become a licensed funeral director. “It was obvious after a very short time that he had the talent,” says Ernie Hagel, the president and owner of the company. Hagel remembers him as a young man who was very interested in different cultures, so when the 23-year-old expressed interest in going back to school for religious studies at the University of Calgary, Hagel kept Segura on staff part-time. “He never missed a shift,” he says. “He was the type that wanted to serve.”
When Briggs Kitchen and Bar was first opening in July, the management took note of Kaitlin Perras when she just happened to be walking by one day and hired her right then and there.
“She was walking down the street and just seemed to have such a great energy about her that the general manager walked right up to her and recruited her,” said Brad Taylor, the owner of the restaurant where Kaitlin worked as a hostess. “That’s just the kind of person she was: she had a fantastic first impression and carried that all the way through the short time we knew her here.”
Taylor remembers her as stylish, loving the arts, and interested in pursuing them long-term. “She was just a really cool young lady who was really with the times.”
Perras also had deep love for dancing, and studying multiple disciplines. “She excelled in ballet, always took her training very seriously, and worked exceptionally hard in all of her classes,” Shannon Hearn, her dance teacher for nine years at the Counterpoint Dance Academy, said in an email. “Her smile and energy lit up the stage and our studio.” Near the memorial site in Brentwood, friends left a pair of pink ballet shoes with RIP written on the toe.
Once asked by lifestyle magazine Avenue Calgary about his personal style for fashion, Lawrence Hong responded, “A formal, urban style.” Urban suited him. The 27-year-old was an urban studies student at the University of Calgary and VP of finance for the Urban Calgary Students Association.
He was a sociable soul who came to Calgary from the Philippines in his teens, according to the Calgary Herald. He was openly gay, even in high school, and was active in the community. Kari McQueen, a former director of the Calgary Fairy Tales Queer Film Festival, says Hong was a great public face for the festival, which is why they often put him at the box office. “He was really great at making people feel welcome when they come in,” she says, adding that he always made their festival T-shirts look good. “He was a snappy dresser.” McQueen says fellow volunteers remember Hong being there to help others struggling with the difficulties of coming out and making them feel like they belong.
He was just a week away from turning 28 when he was killed.