WHITBY, Ont. -- Christine Russell sat across from Richard Kachkar in a conference room at Ontario Shores mental hospital, the pretty scenic facility where Kachkar now spends his days in the secure unit after a jury found him not criminally responsible for running down her husband, Sgt. Ryan Russell, with a stolen snowplow three winters ago.
Just one year has passed since Kachkar was dispatched here and already the lucky guy has been awarded escorted passes into the community -- he’s been to a Whitby plaza three times since March 27, including an outing to the Eggsmart restaurant -- and now he’s making a bid for still more freedom.
At his annual Ontario Review Board hearing Tuesday, he requested a move from the secure unit into the general population where most patients are allowed to roam freely around the facility and the grounds without direct supervision.
The hospital and Kachkar’s psychiatrist, Dr. Zohar Waisman, are opposed to the move. He’s not ready, they say. He’s only been on an anti-psychotic drug since September and his psychotic disorder -- which apparently hasn’t displayed any further symptoms since Russell’s killing -- has been difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to arrive at a prognosis.
“The ability to predict his future risk is limited,” the psychiatrist told the ORB. “It’s still early on in assessing this individual.”
Kachkar is “rather a fragile man” who’s making good progress but is vulnerable to stress and currently going through a divorce, Waisman explained. He’s monitored 24 hours a day for any signs of relapse but that kind of staffing isn’t possible outside the secure unit. “I simply believe he’s not ready,” he warned. “I need more time.”
Kachkar, for his part, said virtually nothing, leaving it to lawyer Peter Copeland to plead his case for more freedom, even suggesting that community living should be in his near future.
While Russell’s family seethed.
“As for what goes on here now, it’s no longer about Ryan, it’s about Richard Kachkar,” said Russell’s father, Glenn. “So having said that, it will be the last time I will attend here. My son would say, ‘This is a huge waste of time, Dad. Don’t bother going.’”
But Russell’s widow feels differently, especially knowing Kachkar is already allowed into the community for escorted breakfasts and “wellness walks.” The Crown tried to block these controversial passes -- ones his own defence lawyer hadn’t even requested at his first hearing -- but the appeal court upheld them earlier this month.
“I still feel he’s a very dangerous man and there’s no predicting what anyone can do with this guy. It’s a gamble and it’s a risk and I don’t think society should be subjected to such risk,” she told reporters. “He killed someone who was protecting us and he’s already out and about? I don’t think it’s right.”
She has vowed to attend every hearing and deliver an emotional victim impact statement at each one in her unwavering attempt to remind the ORB of how Kachkar ruined her life and that of her now five-year-old son, Nolan. “I have to fight. I have to be the voice for Ryan,” Russell explained.
Before she addresses the board, before she utters a word of the many she has written on the pages before her, she glares at the sick man who killed her husband. Her stare goes on for a long and uncomfortable minute. But Kachkar looks impassively ahead.
Finally, she begins: “Richard Kachkar stole my two-year-old son’s father. My son doesn’t remember his father, he only knows him through photographs and the stories we tell. He will never get his dad back,” she says. “Everything we had was destroyed -- our love, our family, our jobs, our properties. This is what I have been coping with during the past three years, adjusting to a life without Ryan and a life as a victim forever because of Richard Kachkar.”
And still he won’t meet her gaze.
“He can’t look at me, so what does that tell you?” Russell asked later. “In my eyes, if he’s refusing to look at me, he’s not ready to admit remorse.”
The ORB told Kachkar he will have a decision within two weeks.