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Accused says devil forced killing of dad
The way Josh Steel saw it, he had been presented a choice by “the devil.”
Either the 19-year-old Kamloops man kill his dad — and, in the process, be given control of the world — or do nothing and watch as he and his entire family die slow, painful deaths.
Such was the scenario presented on Wednesday, Nov. 7, during the B.C. Supreme Court murder trial of the 19-year-old Steel, who admits to beating his father, 63-year-old Phil Steel, to death with a fireplace tool on Sept. 12, 2011.
Court was told Steel had been experiencing psychotic hallucinations for a period of months before the murder. He was put on medication after a visit to Royal Inland Hospital in February, but stopped taking his pills after a doctor in the Philippines told him they were not necessary.
That was March 2011.
After a period of improvement, Steel’s mental state began to deteriorate and he was experiencing hallucinations and having conversations with the devil, even believing his television was sending him messages.
Steel’s mother was concerned when, in late August, her son began spending hours on end in his bed, staring at the ceiling. He would not join her for bike rides or walks and refused to leave the house for work.
Steel also spoke about receiving messages from the TV show Friends.
In particular, he said a character on the show told him to turn a light switch on and off 11 times or risk seeing his family “get hurt.”
On Sept. 10, 2011, two days before Steel killed his father, police were called to the family’s home for a reported family disturbance.
Steel had apparently been fighting with his parents and eventually left the house and began smashing car windows in the neighbourhood. When police arrived, he tried to run away, but was arrested a short time later.
Court heard Mounties were concerned about Steel’s mental health.
Defence lawyer Jordan Watt said police made notes about “unusual verbal sounds” Steel was making while in custody.
Steel was checked out by a mental-health counsellor in jail, but eventually released on a promise to appear in court.
In the brief period between his release from custody and his father’s murder, Steel spent most of his time at his aunt’s North Shore house.
On Sept. 12, 2011, after sitting in silence for four hours inside his aunt’s home, Steel stood up at 4 p.m. and left.
His mother phoned her husband to say Steel was likely coming home. Phil Steel was on the phone with his wife when his son walked up to the family house.
That’s when Josh Steel attacked his father.
“He used a fireplace tool, sometimes referred to as an andiron, to deliver multiple blows to his father’s head,” said Crown prosecutor Joel Gold, reading from an agreed statement of facts.
Phil Steel called 911. Gold said the operator on the other end could hear he was in distress.
By the time police arrived, Josh Steel was running away. Officers caught up with him and placed him under arrest.
“When he was caught by the police, Joshua told them that he killed his dad,” Gold said.
Inside the house, first responders found Phil Steel lying on the floor of a basement living room, his head resting on a blood-soaked couch.
“He had a large concave impression and partly open wound in the back of his head,” Gold said.
Phil Steel was pronounced dead by paramedics at 5 p.m.
Court heard testimony from psychiatrist Sam Iskander, who examined Josh Steel at a Lower Mainland forensic hospital after his arrest.
Iskander said he has provisionally diagnosed Steel with schizophrenia, but said it could prove to be schizo-affective disorder.
He said Steel’s symptoms were likely intensified by marijuana use.
Crown and defence are in agreement about Steel being found not criminally responsible by way of a mental disorder, but the final decision will rest with B.C. Supreme Court Justice Hope Hyslop.
The trial is expected to continue today (Nov. 8).