Woodstock court: Judicial pretrial in the works for Elizabeth Wettlaufer
Art Horvath speaks to the media after a brief appearance at Woodstock courthouse by Elizabeth Wettlaufer. Megan Stacey/Postmedia
The case against a 49-year-old former nurse accused of killing eight long-term-care residents inched forward Friday with a date set to set a date for a judicial pretrial.
A bespectacled Elizabeth Wettlaufer, wearing her prison-issued green shirt and pants and who said nothing other than stating her name, made a brief appearance at the Woodstock courthouse via video link Friday morning from Milton’s Vanier Detention Centre.
Rhonda Fawcett, acting as agent for Toronto lawyer Brad Burgess, requested a two-week adjournment to March 17 to set another date, while the court worked on bringing in an outside judge.
A judicial pretrial is a meeting involving the defence lawyer, the crown attorney, the police officer in charge of the case and a judge.
Wettlaufer is facing eight first-degree murder charges, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault against long-term-care residents in Woodstock, London and Paris and at a private residence in Oxford County.
Children of Arpad Horvath, who was allegedly murdered at Meadow Park in London in August 2014, both said they were disappointed with the short appearance.
“It wasn’t much to listen to,” said Art Horvath. “But I was with him in life and I will be with him in death. I will be here with him all the way to the end and attend every single court appearance. He was my best friend.”
Daughter Susan Horvath, who attended previous appearances with her compassion dog Frisco, said she felt “weighed down by stress” following the recent death of her canine companion.
“Now I am grieving for my father and my fur boy,” she said. “I’m alone now and the world is very big."
But Horvath said she was hopeful the case was “one step forward,” calling the judicial pretrial “a glimmer of hope.”
Still, she worries Wettlaufer may not stand trial.
“I'm learning that she doesn't have to stand trial, if mentally she's not well or something,” Horvath said. "You have no answers . . . I'm just grabbing at straws.”
If proven in court, the charges would make her one of Canada’s most prolific serial killers and the first health-care killer ever recorded in the country.
During Wettlaufer’s last court appearance of Jan. 13, the Crown announced six more charges: four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault involving more long-term-care residents ranging in age from 57 to 90 in Woodstock and Paris and in a private home in Oxford County.
In September 2016, Woodstock police first received information about deaths at nursing homes over several years after the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health alerted Toronto police.
On Oct. 6, Wettlaufer was placed under a peace bond, which included not possessing insulin, medication or any other drugs unless prescribed to her or bought over the counter.
On Oct. 25 she was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of seven residents of Caressant Care and one resident at the Meadow Park nursing home in London.
Attempted murder (charges laid Jan. 13)
Sandra Towler, 77, at Telfer Place nursing home in Paris, in September 2015
Beverly Bertram, 68, at a private Oxford County residence, in August 2016
Wayne Hedges, 57, at Caressant Care in Woodstock, between September and December 2008
Michael Priddle, 63, at Caressant Care in Woodstock, between January 2008 and December 2009
Aggravated assault (charges laid Jan. 13)
Clotilde Adriano, 87, at Caressant Care in Woodstock, between June and December 2007
Albina Demedeiros, 90, at Caressant Care in Woodstock, between June and December 2007
First-degree murder (charges laid in October)
James Silcox, 84, at Caressant Care in Woodstock, died August 17, 2007
Maurice Granat, 84, at Caressant Care in Woodstock, died Dec. 23, 2007
Gladys Millard, 87, at Caressant Care in Woodstock, died Oct. 14, 2011
Helen Matheson, 95, at Caressant Care in Woodstock, died Oct. 27, 2011
Mary Zurawinski, 96, at Caressant Care in Woodstock, died Nov. 7, 2011
Helen Young, 90, at Caressant Care in Woodstock, died July 14, 2013
Maureen Pickering, 79, at Caressant Care in Woodstock, died March 28, 2014
Arpad Horvath, 75, at Meadow Park in London, died Aug. 31, 2014
—with files from Postmedia