Woman accused of murder ordered to undergo assessment to find if she's fit to continue with trial

Accused to be assessed

A Kelowna judge has ordered a woman accused of murdering a man whose mutilated body was found in the bathroom of her Rutland neighbourhood home to undergo an assessment to find out if she is fit to continue with her trial.

The move came after Gabriella Sears, a transgender woman previously known as Dereck, announced last month she was firing her two lawyers because, she claimed, they were “gaslighting” her.

Despite B.C. Supreme Court Judge Carol Ross urging her at the time not to fire her lawyers, saying she would be “hard pressed to find lawyers who do as good a job for you as your lawyers have been doing so far,” and saying it would not be in her best interests to do so, Sears was unswayed.

On Monday in court, Ross ordered the assessment to be conducted within 30 days and scheduled a conference with Sears (who will appear by video link), the lawyer appointed to represent her during the assessment Joe Killoran, the lawyers she wants to fire, Jordan Watt and Tom Forss and Crown lawyers David Grabavac and Erin Miller on Jan. 4. In addition, a hearing for submissions by the lawyers is scheduled for Jan. 8.

During the proceedings on Monday, Sears said she not only wants her lawyers dismissed from the case, she also wants Grabavac and Miller dismissed as well.

A statement she made to the court during a closed-court session last month explaining the desire to fire her lawyers will be made available to the assessor, said Ross. Sears said she also wants the assessor to know why she made the statement and Ross told her she would have that opportunity as part of the assessment interview.

Sears has been in custody since her arrest on June 17, 2021. While she confessed twice to police that she killed Darren Middleton, during a seven-week voir dire hearing prior to the start of the trial, Sears' lawyers successfully argued to exclude the confessions from evidence, due to the investigating officers' breaching Sear's Charter rights.

During earlier testimony in the trial, the court heard Middleton’s body was found in the early morning hours of June 17, 2021 on the floor of Sears’ bathroom with a number of injuries, including the mutilation of his genitals, multiple lacerations and a fractured skull. Two knives and a bloodied baseball bat lay near the body.

Middleton's common-law spouse Brenda Adams testified earlier she was the first to find Middleton's body, after went missing the previous evening. Adams and Middleton had known Sears for about five months prior to his death, and Sears sometimes did odd jobs for the couple.

Adams also testified that days before Middleton's death, Sears told them she identified as a woman and went by Gabriella or Gabby.

The trial also heard testimony from Middleton’s friends, several RCMP officers involved in the investigation, a forensic pathologist who performed an autopsy on Middleton, and a number of experts in blood spatter, DNA, and fingerprint identification.

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