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B.C. murder and mutilation trial to continue after psych assessment

Gabriella Sears facing charges in the grisly 2021 Kelowna death of Darren Middleton
A Sycamore Road home in Kelowna cordoned off as police conduct an investigation after a man was found dead at the residence on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)

WARNING: This story contains graphic details that some readers may find upsetting.

A B.C. Supreme Court Justice ruled that a Kelowna woman accused of murder and mutilation is mentally fit to stand trial.

After spending one month in Vancouver for a mid-trial psychiatric evaluation, on Feb. 8, Gabriella Sears sat in the prisoner’s box of a Kelowna courtroom to hear Justice Carol Ross’ decision that the trial proceedings will resume where it left off and proceed as planned.

Sears faces charges of second-degree murder and interference with human remains after Darren Middleton – a friend and work partner – was found dead in Sears’ home on June 17, 2021.

READ MORE: ‘Large amount of blood’: Mountie testifies in Kelowna murder, mutilation trial

Sears was arrested shortly after the body of Middleton was discovered and has remained in custody since.

At the time of her arrest, Sears was publicly identified by police as a man with the name Dereck Sears. At the time of the incident, Sears had only told a few people about her gender identity, including Middleton and his wife. Sears now publically identifies as a woman and uses she/her pronouns.

On Nov. 8, after a lengthy pre-trial voir dire and 18 trial days of proceedings, Sears stood up in court and announced that she would be firing her two defense lawyers. The trial was originally scheduled to take 45 days.

READ MORE: Kelowna woman accused of murder, mutilation fires lawyers mid-trial

At the time, Justice Ross urged Sears to reconsider and granted a temporary stay of proceedings.

On Dec. 4, court reconvened and Sears was represented by a new defense lawyer. However, rather than continuing with the trial, Justice Ross ordered that Sears undergo a fitness assessment under section 672.12 of the Criminal Code to determine if she was fit to stand trial.

READ MORE: Psych assessment ordered for Kelowna woman accused of murder, mutilation

On Feb. 7, the findings of the fitness assessment were presented to Justice Ross. After hearing evidence, Justice Ross determined that Sears is fit to stand trial and the case once again began to move forward.

“It is my hope that we just carry on as if this never happened,” said Justice Ross.

The trial proceedings will likely resume in June after multiple case management conferences, in order to give Sears’ new lawyer time to review all of the court transcripts and evidence.

Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

I'm a reporter in the beginning stages of my career. I joined the team at Capital News in November 2021...
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