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Psych assessment ordered for B.C. woman accused of murder, mutilation

Gabriella Sears fired and hired a new lawyer mid-trial in Kelowna, causing delays

WARNING: This story contains graphic details that some readers may find upsetting.

The murder trial for a woman accused of killing and then mutilating the genitals of a man has hit yet another delay, this time for a forensic psychiatric evaluation.

Gabriella Sears faces charges of murder and interference with human remains after Darren Middleton – a friend and work partner – was found dead in Sears’ home on June 17, 2021.

At the time of the arrest, Sears was publicly identified by police as a man with the name Dereck Sears.

However, Sears identifies as a transgender woman. At the time of the incident, she had only told a few people about her gender identity, including Middleton and his wife. Sears now uses the name Gabriella and she/her pronouns.

The trial for Sears began on Oct. 16, after numerous pre-trial proceedings to determine the admissibility of certain pieces of evidence.

On Nov. 8, the 18th day of the projected 45-day trial, Sears stood up in court and announced that she would be firing her two lawyers.

Justice Carol Ross urged Sears to reconsider and granted a temporary stay of proceedings.

READ MORE: Kelowna woman accused of murder, mutilation fires lawyers mid-trial

On Dec. 4, court reconvened with Sears being represented by a new defence lawyer. Rather than continuing with proceedings, Justice Ross ordered that Sears undergo a fitness assessment under section 672.12 of the Criminal Code.

The forensic psychiatric fitness assessment will be used to determine whether or not Sears is psychologically fit to stand trial.

Fitness assessments can also be used to determine criminal responsibility at the time of the offence. In this case, the assessment will only be used to determine whether Sears is fit to continue with the trial.

Court is scheduled to reconvene on January 4.

Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

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