Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

'Zombies came at me': Court to determine if man accused in Nanaimo coffee shop murder is criminally responsible

James Carey Turok is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 79-year-old Eric Kutzner

A man accused of a random murder in a Nanaimo coffee shop is in court this week to determine if he can be held criminally responsible.

James Carey Turok is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 79-year-old Eric Kutzner, who was stabbed to death on Feb. 12, 2022, in Buzz Coffee House, in what police called at the time “a random incident with a tragic outcome.”

At issue is whether the case will proceed to a trial or if Turok will be found not criminally responsible, in which case he will likely be transferred to a psychiatric hospital in Coquitlam. Turok, 32, is currently in custody. The case is being heard at B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo.

Dr. Robert Lacroix, a psychiatrist who assessed Turok three times after the killing and was called as an expert witness by the Crown, said Turok described himself as a “medical intuitive” who had special healing powers and that he believed he could communicate telepathically.

Turok described hearing voices of celebrities, musicians and political ­figures, sometimes receiving messages from them that they were trying to p­revent him from sharing his knowledge and powers. He became worried about Russians, the Royal Family and political figures obstructing him,­ ­Lacroix said.

“He made a statement that Putin had been throwing zombies in his way,” ­Lacroix told the court.

The psychiatrist said he believes Turok suffers from a chronic and persistent mental disorder known as schizoaffective disorder bipolar type. His psychosis is characterized by experiencing a break in reality and being incapable of distinguishing between internal and external realities, Lacroix said.

Turok repeatedly said he believed Kutzner was a zombie or “some kind of non-human entity” at the time of the killing, he said.

Lacroix quoted a statement Turok gave to police while in hospital following the attack: “Zombies came at me. Like that’s why I had to kill that guy. That was a zombie. So how could I kill somebody that isn’t human? How can that be considered killing something that in a sense is still, is something that’s death, because it’s not human, so it didn’t die.”

Lacroix said: “In my clinical opinion, it’s a reasonable inference to draw that, as a result of his psychotic symptoms, he was not able to understand the ­physical consequences of his actions in the way someone who wasn’t suffering from psychosis would have been able to.”

Turok began to exhibit symptoms of psychosis in 2012 when his family noticed unusual changes in his behaviour, Lacroix said. Turok has been hospitalized multiple times and has stabilized while on medication.

People who know Turok said his mental state had deteriorated in the weeks leading up to Kutzner’s death, with one friend saying he was “almost incoherent,” Lacroix said.

A few days before the killing, Turok went to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital in an agitated state demanding to see his former psychiatrist. He wasn’t seen by the psychiatrist, but the visit was indicative of a change in his mental state, Lacroix said.

A decision is expected today on whether Turok will proceed to trial or be found not criminally responsible.

[email protected]