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Treatment hearing for Alberta man found not criminally responsible in mother's death

CALGARY — A review board has heard that an Alberta man who killed his mother because he thought she was possessed by Satan is making good progress but still requires close monitoring.

CALGARY — A review board has heard that an Alberta man who killed his mother because he thought she was possessed by Satan is making good progress but still requires close monitoring. 

Alexander James Thorpe, 21, was arrested in January after showing up at an Airdrie, Alta., car dealership nude, except for a gold cross around his neck, covered in blood. 

He indicated to first responders that he was told by Jesus to kill Satan, who had taken over his mother's body. 

Thorpe pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in Melanie Lowen's death and was found not criminally responsible last month. 

Psychiatrist Dr. Ken Hashman, who has been treating Thorpe with lithium for a form of bipolar disorder that can cause episodes of psychosis, said Wednesday that he has been in spontaneous remission since shortly after his arrest. 

"He's finding it helpful in regulating his mood," Hashman told an Alberta Review Board hearing that will map out Thorpe's treatment over the next year.

"He is a model patient in the forensic unit. I think he has a very good chance with ongoing intensive treatment of keeping his condition under control and having very successful rehabilitation while we keep the community safe."

But Hashman pointed out that bipolar disorder isn't something that can be cured ... only controlled. He said Thorpe needs to be watched closely to make sure the lithium is the right course of treatment.

"It's very important to monitor the person over a period of time and graduate them in terms of any kind of exposure to stress and see how they respond to that and make sure they have the psychological tools to deal with it as well," he said.

"It remains to be seen whether the lithium will be sufficient or whether he requires any other kind of medications such as one of the new anti-psychotic medications."

Hashman said at this point, Thorpe remains a low risk to reoffend, but due to the "historical risk factor" of what happened with his mother, he will be kept at the Southern Alberta Psychiatry Centre for the next year under observation. That means he will require supervision for any doctor's appointments or temporary absences.

"It's a very serious index event that occurred and so I think it is prudent that anything beyond supervised grounds with staff should be a delegated privilege so that at least two psychiatrists and the treatment team need to thoughtfully consider whether he's ready for the next step," said Hashman.

A number of Thorpe's family members attended the Zoom meeting. His aunt, Mandy Carlson, said he has their support.

"Our family has been a part of Alex's life since the day he's been born. We've watched him grow into a kind, smart and successful young man and to see this disease take over his mind has been horrific for all of us," said Carlson.

"But as a family, not once have we ever wavered in our love and support for Alex. I know that our sister and daughter would want us to do the same."

Thorpe told the board he takes responsibility for what he has done.

"The day that I fully grasped the reality of my situation I felt a sense of panic and overwhelm that I wasn't sure would ever go away. Soon after it shifted to intense guilt and anguish but thankfully the emotions have kind of eased in intensity," he said.

"The lithium medication has really helped me deal with the grief -- essentially bringing me out of the pit I was in for the first two or three months."

Thorpe said he intends to face the long treatment journey ahead with "optimism and courage."

"I feel ready to continue moving forward with prudence and still being realistic about what freedoms I may have or may not have and I want to say that I completely understand the very, very tight balancing act that the board has ahead of them."

The Alberta Review Board has reserved its decision on a treatment plan for Thorpe for the next year. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2022. 

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. Previous version had wrong last name of psychiatrist.