The Case of Allan Schoenborn

Having been immersed in other writing pursuits, I haven’t been inclined to blog as of late. But the case of Allan Schoenborn coming back into the media spotlight has me riled up enough to submit a cent or two.

Many might remember Shoenborn as the man in British Columbia, Canada who was found not criminally responsible for the murders of his three young children several years ago. Meaning, that he would serve out his time in a forensic psychiatric hospital, instead of a jail. Also meaning that there isn’t any specific length of time that he must be removed from society. It is up to a board of mental health professionals to decide when he is fit to return to society and under what restrictions.

Of course, this all caused a great deal of public debate, much reminiscent of what was heard when Vince Li was found not criminally responsible for the decapitation death of Tim McLean aboard a Greyhound bus. And making the verdict that much more difficult for some to swallow was the bizarre nature of Schoenborn’s offence and subsequent actions. After the murders, that he admitted to in great detail, he ran into the woods. It would take nine days for police to track him down, with the help of a hunter who stumbled upon him in the woods.

Mr. Shoerborn’s reason for killing his children was simple and stated in multiple undercover interviews in jail and with his estranged wife: he thought they were being sexually abused and saw no other choice. He said that he could smell semen in their hair which was proof that they were being abused. He saw no other way to end their suffering than to kill them.

Of course, this isn’t logical reasoning but it definitely displays that he was not of sound mind at the time of the offense and was obviously displaying the symptoms of severe mental illness, likely paranoid schizophrenia compounded by depression.

My entire reason for bringing this painful issue to light once again is that there has been a public and political out-cry since it was deemed that he would get escorted passes to the community. Numerous petitions have been filed and the word spread like wildfire, causing the review board to have to reconvene in a few weeks to review their decision.

This sort of ‘lock him up and throw away the key’ mentality proves that our understanding and appreciation of mental illness still has a painfully long way to go.

Society has basically said that whether he was mentally ill or not, he has to pay. And should pay by spending the rest of his life locked up. If the review board deemed him able to go on escorted walks, that means that he is likely progressing with treatment. He likely no longer believes that his children were being molested, and likely can no longer justify that belief for his dreadful actions. Therefore, he has to face each and every day with the thought that he brutally murdered his three beautiful children.

That sounds like punishment enough.

But apparently, it isn’t. This gentleman just wants to go to the coffee shop and take a walk around town. And he wouldn’t have been alone. He would have had escorts from the hospital. But due to our fears of everything we don’t understand, he won’t be going off of property for quite some time.

The bottom line is that you can’t punish someone for having a mental illness. People who commit gruesome acts whilst under the thrusts of mental illness don’t have the capacity to understand them in the same way that you or I would. When your mind is constantly distorting your perceptions, your belief in what is real is greatly affected, and thus impairs your decision-making abilities.

Allen Shoenborn wouldn’t have killed his children had he been of sound mind. And now that he is beginning to gain some sense of normalcy in his otherwise chaotic and deluded world, we shouldn’t take this tiny progress away from him.

He’s mourning the death of his three young children.

And there is no greater punishment than that.