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Gregory Allan DESPRES





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Decapitation
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: April 23, 2005
Date of arrest: 4 days after (in USA)
Date of birth: July 1982
Victims profile: Fred Fulton, 74, and Veronica "Verna" Decarie, 70 (his neighbours)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Minto, New Brunswick, Canada
Status: Found guilty, but not criminally responsible for his actions at the time on March 5, 2008. Despres is currently being held at Shepody Healing Centre which is part of the Dorchester Penitentiary

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Gregory Allan Despres has been convicted of the murders of Fred Fulton, 74, and Veronica "Verna" Decarie, 70, of Minto, New Brunswick, Canada, which occurred on April 23, 2005. On March 5, 2008, the Court found Despres guilty, but not criminally responsible for his actions at the time.

Early life

Despres was born in Minto, New Brunswick in July 1982. As a young child, his mother, Jenny Despres, separated from Despres' father, Glendon Meyer. Despres lived a nomadic existence nearly his entire life.

In his youth, he moved with his mother to Massachusetts. He easily made friends and was involved in community activities. As a teenager, he took part in sports and Cadets. He also worked part-time jobs.

By the age of 16, Despres' mother began noticing changes in his personality which she dismissed as teenage rebellion. At 17, Despres moved back to Minto with his estranged father.

Despres also severed ties with his mother for almost 2 years, until she herself had returned to Minto. By this time Despres had become isolated from society locking himself away in his residence for long periods of time rarely being seen by outsiders. His mother was concerned, asked him if he was doing drugs. Despres denied it. Despres state continued to deteriorate beyond that point.


On the evening April 23, 2005, Despres left his trailer and traveled a short distance on foot to the residence of Fred Fulton and Veronica Decarie. Despres gained access to the house by cutting open the screen of one door with a knife and kicking in the second door.

Despres went to the couple's bedroom where he stabbed Decarie to death. While Fulton attempted to escape the house, he only made it to the porch before being overpowered by Despres. Despres then dragged Fulton back to the kitchen where he decapitated him. While it was originally reported to the media that Despres had thrown Fulton's head out the back door, it was actually found under the kitchen table in a pillowcase.


Shortly after the murders, Despres packed up a car with the murder weapons and drove toward the United States. The car was later found in a gravel pit near the Canada-U.S. border and identified as Fulton's. On April 25, 2005, one day before the bodies were discovered, Despres arrived at the Calais, Maine, border crossing. He presented himself to the U.S. border guards while carrying a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles and a chainsaw stained with what appeared to be blood.

At the border, Despres boasted of being an assassin for the United States government and of having killed 700. The weapons were confiscated and Despres was fingerprinted. Although it was determined that Despres was due in court to be sentenced for an assault conviction, Despres held U.S. citizenship and under US law, the officers could not legally compel Depres to return to Canada. Although contact was made with the RCMP, they had no other information that would have allowed the officers to detain Despres. The bodies had not yet been discovered. He was therefore properly permitted to enter the United States.

There were however other grounds for possibly detaining Despres that were not acted upon by the border patrol agents. "Joseph Gutheinz, a University of Phoenix criminal justice professor said they could have arrested Despres for lying to a customs officer. The comment about 700 kills should have tipped them that he was not telling the truth, he said."

Gutheinz, a retired Senior Special Agent who had previously served with three Federal agencies also said "if the customs agents wanted to exercise their discretion in regard to a person who they believed might be mentally ill, there was also a non-criminal option. In Maine, as in many states, there is a protective custody statute, which permits law enforcement officers to take into custody individuals they have reasonable grounds to believe may be an imminent threat to themselves or others. This authority to apprehend and process a person is designed to permit a psychological evaluation.

From there, Despres hitchhiked south to Massachusetts. On April 27, 2005, a trooper spotted Despres wandering on the side of the road. During a routine check for outstanding warrants, it was found that Despres was expected in court that day in Fredericton, New Brunswick for an assault on Fulton's son-in-law in August 2004.

The day prior, Fulton's daughter discovered the bodies of her father and Decarie at their residence in Minto, New Brunswick. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) quickly suspected Despres and learned later he had been arrested in the United States and was currently jailed in Boston. Despres was extradited from Boston to Fredericton on September 15, 2005.

First trial

Despres' trial was originally scheduled for September 5, 2006. On August 4, 2006, however, Despres fired his lawyer, Randy Maillet, with whom he disagreed on how the defense should be presented. This caused a major delay and the trial date was moved to January 8, 2007.

The Despres trial would be heard by a judge and not a jury. Judge Judy Clendenning would reside over the case. The prosecution focused its case on the blood trail, DNA evidence, and his relations with Fulton. The prosecution stated Despres and Fulton were constantly fighting over the waterline, a conflict worsened by Despres' use of recreational drugs.

On February 1, Despres lashed out at his new lawyer, Ed Darrah, accusing him of working for Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. He demanded his lawyer be fired, but Clendenning refused his request. Darrah requested his client be sent for a psychological evaluation; Clendenning agreed and the trial was ended.

Hearings were held on April 24, 25 and 26, 2007. During this time, one expert, Dr. Scott Theriault, said that Despres was unfit to stand trial due to the fact he believe Despres had paranoid schizophrenia. Jeannie, Despres' mother, backed this up by saying her son seemed to act strangely since the age of 17. Another expert testified that Despres was in fact fit to stand trial and that medication could help any mental disorder he was facing. Clendenning disagreed with that theory and ruled that Despres was unfit to stand trial on April 26.

On July 11, 2007, Despres was brought before the provincial mental health review board which found that he had responded well to treatment and was in fact fit to stand trial. A new trial was promptly ordered.

Second trial

Despres' second began on November 5, 2007 and was overheard by Justice Grant. Evidence from the first trial was admitted into court.

On the second day of the trial, Despres' grandfather, Adolph, testified that Despres had repeatedly tried to join the military and had been rejected every time. He also testified that Despres would stay in his room for hours talking to himself.

Also presented this day was a video of the crime scene which showed graphic images of Fulton's house. The video clearly showed blood on the walls of the bedroom and Decaries' body on the floor, it also showed the blood smeared kitchen where Fulton's decapitated body was sprawled out. It then showed the pillow case in which Fulton's head was found.

On day three, Fulton's grandson, Fred Mowat, testified before the court that his grandfather feared Despres and often required medications to sleep at night. Mowat also testified that he and Despres had had a fight in 2004 over noise coming from his trailer, and that Despres pulled a knife on him.

Charges were filed in this incident and Despres was found guilty (it was prior to being sentenced for this crime that Despres allegedly committed the murders of Fulton and Decarie and fled across the U.S. border). On day four, the court heard from one witness who had seen Despres cross the U.S. border and another witness who had picked him up hitchhiking and drove him south.

On November 16, the court adjourned Despres' trial until January 2008, allowing counsel time to prepare expert witnesses.

On January 28, 2008, the trial continued with defense presenting Despres' mother and Dr. Scott Theriault, a psychiatrist, as witnesses. The testimony and evidence given went to the issue of whether the defendant's mental state could allow him to be criminally responsible in the case he did commit the murders.

On January 29, 2008, Despres' psychiatrist, Dr. Louis Theriault, also presented evidence going to the issue of Despres' mental state (it is only coincidence that both psychiatrists share the same surname). On January 30, 2008, prosecution and defense presented their summation to the court and Justice Grant reserved decision until March 5, 2008. In Canadian criminal law, while the burden of proof which must be met to find the accused guilty of a crime is that of "beyond a reasonable doubt", the burden of proof for the defense of non-criminal responsibility based on mental condition is the lower standard of a "balance of probabilities".

Court's Decision

On March 5th, 2008, Justice William Grant found Gregory Despres guilty of causing the deaths of Fred Fulton and Verna Decarie in 2005. However, Justice Grant agreed with the defense in finding that Despres was not criminally responsible for his actions at the time. Despres is currently being held at Shepody Healing Centre which is part of the Dorchester Penitentiary.


Despres not criminally responsible for neighbours' deaths

Accused's mental state key issue, judge says

CBC News

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A New Brunswick judge has ruled that Gregory Despres caused the deaths of his elderly neighbours but that he is not criminally responsible.

Cries of "Hallelujah" and "Thank God" from relatives of the victims turned to tears as the judge's ruling first said the 25-year-old had caused the deaths but then went on to say he couldn't be held criminally responsible.

Justice William Grant told the Fredericton Court of Queen's Bench on Wednesday the Crown had proven beyond a reasonable doubt Despres caused the deaths of Fred Fulton, 74, and Verna Decarie, 70, in April 2005.

The defence, however, had also successfully argued that Despres was not criminally responsible for his actions, Grant said.

Despres was charged with two counts for first-degree murder. He has now been remanded to the Shepody Healing Centre, which serves as a secure mental health centre for New Brunswick's medium-security Dorchester Penitentiary. A disposition hearing will be held within 45 days to determine what will happen next to Despres.

'Sheer brutality'

Fulton and Decarie were found dead in their Minto, N.B., home on April 26, 2005. Both had been stabbed repeatedly and Fulton was decapitated.

"The sheer brutality of the murders makes me question whether this could be carried out by a person who understood the wrongfulness of their actions," Grant said.

The court had heard there were footprints made in blood by bare feet and a pair of boots throughout the house and on the back porch indicating a struggle where Fulton had at one point likely escaped his attacker to the outside and also attempted to barricade himself in the bathroom.

Fulton had 30 clusters of stab wounds on his body and his decapitated head was found in a pillowcase under the kitchen table. Decarie's body had 31 wounds with the most substantial stabs to her face and upper neck.

Grant said he believed from the testimony of expert witnesses and Despres's family that he had been suffering from a mental illness for at least a year before the killings and was delusional for at least 24 hours after the incident.

The judge referenced the testimony of Despres's grandfather, who had told the court that the man would stay in the bathroom for hours talking to himself in voices.

Despres's delusions were also apparent when he crossed the border at Calais, Maine, and told border officials that he was a marine sniper and an assassin with 700 kills.

Family members of the victims told reporters outside the courthouse the verdict was not unexpected but that they were still disappointed.

"I think that's too grey of [an] area in the law," said Michael Richardson, Fulton's nephew. "I just think that you're responsible for your actions regardless of what you do. If you're not responsible for your actions, who is?

"Someone should pay for these two people being murdered, and I don't think we got justice today."

Second trial for Despres

The second trial for Despres was heard by Grant alone.

Despres's first trial was halted in 2007 after he exhibited bizarre behaviour in the courtroom. After a psychiatric assessment, he was declared unfit to stand trial and ordered to undergo treatment for paranoid schizophrenia.

A provincial review board later ruled that Despres had responded well to psychiatric treatment, understood the court proceedings and the charges against him and was fit to stand trial again.

His second trial, however, was adjourned again in November to allow the Crown and defence to prepare expert witnesses to testify on whether Despres could be held criminally responsible for his alleged crimes.

In January, the court heard from two psychiatrists who believed that the man could not be found criminally responsible if a guilty verdict was handed down.

For individuals to be found not criminally responsible, they must have a mental disorder and that illness must be found to have had an effect on behaviour during the situation being examined.

Despres's defence lawyers had argued he was delusional and believed he was carrying out a military mission at the time the slayings occurred.

The Crown maintained that Despres knowingly entered the home of his neighbours with a weapon and wearing protective clothing. He then committed a crime, fled the scene and crossed the border into the United States, the Crown argued in court.


Double-murder suspect extradited to Canada

CBC News - Thursday, September 15, 2005

A New Brunswick man wanted in connection with the slayings of an elderly couple was extradited from the U.S. to Canada Thursday evening.

Gregory Allen Despres, 23, has been charged with the murder of 74-year-old Fred Fulton and 70-year-old Veronica Decaire, who were killed April 23 at their home in Minto, 50 kilometres east of Fredericton.

Despres was brought to Canada on a RCMP plane from a prison in Plymouth, Mass., accompanied by several police officers in plain clothes.

He has been in jail since he was arrested in Massachusetts on April 27 in connection with the murders.

After a brief hearing in U.S. District Court in Boston a few months ago, the U.S. State Department signed an extradition order to have Despres turned over to Canadian officials.

A prosecutor told the extradition hearing that police matched blood on Despres's clothes to Fulton.

Depres did not fight extradition at the hearing.

According to documents filed in the U.S. Federal Court, which include a report from the RCMP on the homicides, an attacker gained entry to Fulton's home by cutting a screen door and kicking in a second door.

The investigators believe the person then went to a bedroom, where Decarie was stabbed several times.

The document suggests that Fulton got as far as his porch before the attacker dragged him back into the kitchen and cut off his head.

The RCMP report says Fulton's daughter made the horrific discovery three days later.

On April 25, a day before the bodies were discovered, Despres arrived at the U.S.-Canadian border at Calais, Maine, carrying a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles and a chainsaw stained with what appeared to be blood.

Although U.S. customs agents confiscated the weapons and fingerprinted Despres, the border guards decided that he should be allowed to enter the country.

Bill Anthony, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said Despres, who was born in Canada, could not be detained because he is a naturalized U.S. citizen and he was not wanted on any criminal charges as far as customs officials could tell.

"Being bizarre is not a reason to keep somebody out of this country or lock them up," said Anthony, adding Despres had not violated any regulations.

Anthony admitted it "sounds stupid" that a man wielding what appeared to be a bloody chainsaw could not be detained. But he said, "Our people don't have a crime lab up there. They can't look at a chainsaw and decide if it's blood or rust or red paint."

On the same day Despres crossed the border, he was due in court in Fredericton to be sentenced on charges he assaulted and threatened to kill Fulton's son-in-law last August.

After clearing the border, Despres hitchhiked to southern Massachusetts, where a state trooper saw him wandering along the side of a highway. He was arrested after a routine check for outstanding warrants revealed that he hadn't shown up for the sentencing hearing.



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