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Suspect in Calgary stabbings ‘great kid, full of love,’ father says

Police Inspector Doug de Grood pauses with his wife Susan while making a statement to the press regarding his son Matthew in Calgary on Thursday, April 17, 2014. Matthew de Grood is alleged to have stabbed and killed five people in Calgary's worst mass murder in the history of the city.

Todd Korol/Reuters

Susan de Grood helped steady her husband, Doug, as the senior Calgary police officer described their son as a "great kid" who until recently looked set for a bright future in the legal profession.

In his first public statement since 22-year-old Matthew de Grood was arrested after a deadly stabbing rampage at a house party early Tuesday, Inspector de Grood said he spoke as a devastated parent, not an officer with the force now investigating the five killings.

"Just like you, we struggle to understand what happened," Insp. de Grood told reporters on the steps of the office of his son's defence lawyer. Ms. de Grood was silent at his side through the short but emotional statement, holding his arm when he appeared unsteady. Her husband said the couple spoke with one voice.

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"We have received an outpouring of support from our extended families, our friends and neighbours, co-workers and even people we've never met," he said. "We thank each one of you for your support. We will never recover from this, but the collective support has helped ease some of the pain."

Matthew de Grood, facing five counts of first-degree murder, remained in custody at a forensic psychiatric facility awaiting his first court appearance, set for Tuesday.

His father, a 33-year police veteran, managed to avoid breaking down as he offered condolences to the victims' families. He described Matthew's good grades at school, his acceptance at law school in the fall, and his love of long-distance running.

"Like any parent can tell you, a love for your child is unconditional, and we love Matthew dearly," he said. "Our Matthew is a great kid, full of love, kindness and respect for others."

The parents did not take questions from reporters.

He spoke after police said they had completed the autopsies on the bodies of the victims: Joshua Hunter, 23; Kaiti Perras, 23; Jordan Segura, 23; Zackariah Rathwell, 21; and Lawrence Hong, 27.

They died from stab wounds inflicted with a large knife at a party held to celebrate the end of the university semester. Matthew de Grood had been invited, and police said on Thursday he mingled for an undetermined period before the attacks began.

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The Calgary Police Service said it would remain in charge of the investigation, despite calls from some legal experts that another agency should take over to steer clear of any perception of bias due to Doug de Grood's senior position on the force. Inspector de Grood remains on the job, police said.

Police spokesman Kevin Brookwell contended that the police officer is not being investigated, and the CPS has shown how vigorously it is pursuing the case by the speed in which it laid the charges in what is the city's worst mass murder.

"The cornerstone of our profession is to investigate matters like this without favour or bias," Mr. Brookwell told reporters. "Investigative excellence that we have in the CPS, the amount of resources that we have dedicated to this file – we're going to, as we do with every file, investigate this to the infinite detail."

Anna Laycock lived with one of the victims, Ms. Perras, in residence at Mount Royal University in the previous academic year. Ms. Laycock is among those questioning whether CPS members can conduct an impartial investigation.

"There will be an undeniable, unconscious bias," she said after speaking about her friend at a ceremony at the school. "I just don't think that they should be doing this – investigating." The bias will remain "even though this act was so horrific," Ms. Laycock said. "The entire police force of Calgary knows this family, knows him."

Some legal experts said the local police should hand over control of the case to another authority like the RCMP or the Edmonton police.

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"The police investigation into any crime, particularly with five people killed, needs to be independent and seen to be independent," Irvin Waller, a professor in the criminology department at the University of Ottawa and president of the International Organization for Victim Assistance, said in an e-mail. "The Calgary Police Service is one of the best in the world, but investigating an accused who is the son of a long-time serving officer is unnecessarily testing their limits."

Alberta's Justice Department has appointed Crown prosecutors from Edmonton, due to the relationship to a senior officer.

The Calgary Police Commission, which provides civilian oversight to the city's police, is satisfied that the case, as sensitive as it is, will be handled impartially, chairman Rodney Fong said.

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Mergers and Acquisitions Reporter

Jeffrey Jones is a veteran journalist specializing in energy, finance and environment for The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business, based in Calgary. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2013, he was a senior reporter for Reuters, writing news, features and analysis on energy deals, pipelines, politics and general  topics. More

Carrie Tait joined the Globe in January, 2011, mainly reporting on energy from the Calgary bureau. Previously, she spent six years working for the National Post in both Calgary and Toronto. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario and a bachelor’s degree in political studies from the University of Saskatchewan. More

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