Finding justice for victims of individuals found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder

“Dorle, you’re supposed to be dead.”

Stephen Lowry had left Vancouver physician Dorle Kneifel limp and lifeless in the bedroom after bashing her repeatedly about the head with a clock radio, then suffocating her with his hand.

During the attack, when the slight Kneifel realized that her struggles against the tall, lean young athlete—a tenant in her Dunbar home—were futile, she had played dead, even during the ensuing sexual assault. Lowry then left the bedroom. Kneifel waited, trying to quiet the pounding of her heart and the desperate inhalation of air into her lungs.

Silence.

The world outside was waking up to the muted gold of an April Sunday morning.

Still, silent.

Unravelling herself from the twist of bed sheets, Kneifel picked herself up off the bedroom floor, pulled down the black T-shirt she used as nightgown, and peeked out the door. At the same time, Lowry, who had exited the house, returned through the front entrance.

The timing was straight out of a Hollywood thriller. Except this was real-life horror.

Then Lowry uttered his chilling words.

Kneifel sprinted out of the bedroom and into the kitchen, then spun left into the dining room before Lowry caught her. “I’m not a screamer, but I made the conscious decision to scream,” Kneifel says today during an interview in that same dining room.

Lowry snatched a potted plant from a side table and smashed it over Kneifel’s head. The pair fell to the floor. Lowry, a 24-year-old former national junior cross-country ski team member, straddled the 48-year-old Kneifel. He grabbed a rock on the side table that was part of a display of treasured mementos brought to Vancouver from Kneifel’s wilderness property in northern British Columbia. “It was a good-sized rock,” Kneifel says, opening her hand, palm up, and spreading her fingers wide to show the stone’s heft. As the rock repeatedly slammed into her skull, Kneifel, unable to protect herself, “waited to have the experience of what the ultimate exiting is like”.

Kneifel pauses, a slight tremor in her voice. “I recollect being bashed over and over again, and I know I am weeping and I know that I am just waiting for my skull to collapse. Time slows down. I knew it was a beautiful sunny morning. I could smell blood and dirt and I knew I was dying.”

Michael Potter, another tenant who slept in a downstairs bedroom, opened his eyes, unsure what had awoken him. Hearing thumping from upstairs, Potter got up to investigate, curious more than anything. He saw Lowry sitting on something on the dining-room hardwood floor, swinging what he thought was his fist.

“Stephen, what are you doing?” Potter demanded.

“I’m going to kill her; she was going to kill us,” Lowry said.

“I’m going to kill you next,” Lowry then told Potter.

At this point, Kneifel says, she was “beyond speech”. Then Lowry’s “weight was lifted and there was a moment when I knew I could run”.

Potter, a 5-5 Edmontonian who had moved to Vancouver to attend culinary school, had been a hockey referee and was skilled at breaking up fights between burly pugilists. He got behind Lowry, put him in a headlock, and wrenched him off Kneifel. The two men flew backwards into the living room, landing on a couch. Pinioned, Lowry struggled, then slumped in Potter’s arms.

Kneifel stumbled to her feet, fled out the front door to a neighbour’s home, and banged to be let in. When the door opened, she crawled into the living room. “I was in excruciating pain and was whimpering, ”˜Somebody please help me; please help me.’ ” The neighbour, who had known Kneifel for seven years, didn’t recognize the terrified, bloody heap on the floor.

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Comments (24) Add New Comment
Pat R
I applaud Dr. Kneifel's incredible courage. Best wishes on your recovery.
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Phil
Law requires that the review board, established under the Criminal Code of Canada, “err on the side of liberty” rather than “on the side of caution”, Hillaby says. -This is unacceptable.
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james green
It is time for the entire justice system in this country to put victims first and the criminal offenders last.
I pray for Dr. Kneifel and wish her well.
This very ill offender cannot be released because it is not known if he will repeat his heinous offense on the doctor.
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shelley
What you went through was brutal, the only comfort besides your survival is to know your attacker was in psychosis and it wasn't malicious or deliberately intentional as he wasn't mentally himself. The mentally ill don't wish to be delusional, it is a hell of a disease and I understand its hard to find compassion, but try if only for your own healing and peace of mind. I hope he was ordered supervised treatment, medication to prevent this. My son took his life due to mental illness, I understand. God Bless you.
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Michelle C.
This reminds me of the old joke about social workers wherein they stumble upon a man that has been beaten and they run up to the victim and say 'we must find who did this to you...and help them".
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james green
It is sad on all fronts but who do we protect first and who should be placed in a place where they cannot violently attack people because of their mental illness. I am talking about violence and the mentally ill here.
I have compassion for the mentally ill but want innocent people protected especially when they have been attacked in the past.
Your son killed himself and a mentally ill person murdered my sister.
How and when do we stop the violence?

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borguy
This is an odd article for the straight; Id expect the Sun or the Province to be fearmongering about the mentally ill but not the straight. Also its really hard to be sympathetic to someone whose income is well into the six figures and appears to have suffered no real long term damage except needing some therapy she could easily afford. What does she have to gain from suing a person locked away with no obvious financial resources to any any damages besides some kind of wish for revenge?
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Punky
Borguy - that's a ridiculous comment as though a six-figure income should wash away the pain and suffering that she has endured. You sound envious of a good income.

Dr. Kneifel - you are amazing for stepping forth and sharing your story. This is a tragedy all around. But frankly, whether or not somebody is mentally ill the public needs to be protected from their unpredictable behaviour. If there is hope for rehabilitation, great. If not, we cannot put the public at risk via our unrealistic hopes that this guy will never again commit a violent and heinous crime. And if you care about his well-being, then consider that by preventing further criminal/violent acts, we are preventing him too from having to endure the repercussions of his behaviour.
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Georgia Scott
Anyone who has had the privilege of having Dorle Kneifel as their doctor knows what an extraordinary woman she is. That she would take such a brutal, horrendous attack and use it as a means of addressing the justice system and victim services, is a testament of her strength, courage, integrity and generosity of spirit. May all the care, support and service that she gives to the world come back to her a hundredfold at this time.
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RubyTuesday
Borguy - you are mssing the point of this article to have made such callous comments. This isn't about revenge on the part of Dorle Kneifel; it's about preventing anyone else - including youself - from being viciously attacked and then suffering from a lack of judicial support and victim assistance. Dorle Kneifel has enough to deal with already without having to go public about her horrific ordeal She did so for the benefit of us all.
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LGM
Lots of people are mentally ill and suffer from delusions and do NOT commit sexual assault and attempted murder. Something else is going on when this happens and society needs to be protected.

Dr Kneifal is brave and compassionate. I applaud her.
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beelzebub
Nobody should have to endure this kind of trauma. After the physical injuries are healed, there will be years of treatment for the mental distress caused. Protection of society should be paramount over re-integration of the accused. We truly have lost our way.
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Stephen Blumstein
The mentally ill, developmentally handicapped, chronically homeless, ex-cons, and wrongfully accused are the most misunderstood and maligned population in the universe. Incidence of criminal behaviour among those with DSM5r labeled disease model `illnesses` is lower than the general population. Check out the research please.
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Stephen Blumstein
What ever happened to offender rights, due process, and the rights of those with a mental disorder ? Why the swing to the right when social scientific research supports the thesis that the mentally ill have a lower incidence of criminal behavior than the general pí´pulation. Besides, a good percentage of cops are psychopaths, according to Hare`s reseach on psychopathy. Furthermore, if there were more resources for those with a `disease of the mind`, this incident would never have happened. Most of our homeless are dual diagnosis anyway.
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Suzie Q
It makes me sick that criminal acts are more and more seen as actions of the 'mentally ill.' Peadophiles are seen as 'mentally ill.' Look at their victims! Psychiatrists (who's opinions vary from one to another on the same subjects yet they are labelled 'experts') have far too much say in who is guilty and who is not. In fact they have far too much say FULL STOP! Their opinions and diagnoses are infesting all areas of society which I may add is not getting any better but on the contrary, it is getting worse. Education is an area in a damn mess with kids forced onto mind altering drugs. Hundreds of millions are pumped into this money making industry yet stats are deteriorating!
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james green
Please do not make this pro or con mentally ill. It is about the doctor and the pain she has had to endure and her quest to be sure no one else goes through this from the man who attacked her.
All mentally ill people are not violently dangerous and those who are must be kept out of society.
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Emily Norris
yeah good luck with that, I doubt anything will be done for your benefit, It will be just about the patient at the review board, as for victim statements, the statement from the family weighs heavier, as the boards job is to adequately serve the patient, not the victim. I wish you greater healing and a strong recovery. But there is no justice in insanity.
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Bedouin
I agree with Suzie Q. Ok it's not the forum for it but what is? I have sympathy for this lady and I do wish her well but the point is how come people can easily hide behide the 'mentally ill' status? Good look to you dear lady.
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Haboosheh
Wishing you all the best on your recovery, but, question your decision to ignore Lowry's fathers plea to phone 911, and have the son treated. All too often the input from the family of the mentally ill is ignored. I tried desperately to get help for my brother, but was always told he must ask for help himself. He was too ill to do that. Whom should I sue for the pain of watching him deteriorate? Whom should I sue for the pain of finding out he committed suicide because of the lack of treatment? Whom should I sue for the $250,000 he spent or was scammed of in the last few months of his life? Why does the system wait till something horrific happens before they offer treatment to the mentally ill?
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Molly Jones
I think there is so much more to this case than the public will ever know. What we learn of it in this article is based on the understanding and impressions of the person who wrote it.

What is certain, however, is that Dorle Kneifel is not only someone who survived two attempts on her life, but as an informed physician herself, has a better understanding of mental illnesses than most. As a health care practitioner, she also has a knowledge of the mental health rehabilitative services available or the lack thereof, according to the Vancouver Mayor. For her to come forward with her experience, and launch a symbolic civil suit, must have been in the best interest of the public. It's easy to jump to all sorts of conclusions and pass judgement on this case but Dorle Kneifel knows a lot more about it than we ever will.
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