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Man with autism who killed abusive father guilty of murder: jury

Vincent Fong is on trial, accused of second-degree murder in the death of his father, Kwan Fong.  (Facebook - image credit)
Vincent Fong is on trial, accused of second-degree murder in the death of his father, Kwan Fong. (Facebook - image credit)

A Calgary man who killed his abusive father has been convicted of murder after jurors deliberated for just three hours following closing arguments earlier in the day from Crown and defence.

Vincent Fong, who has diagnoses of autism, obsessive compulsive disorder and an intellectual disability, was on trial for second-degree murder of his father, Kwan Fong, 70, but defence lawyer Katherin Beyak asked jurors to return a verdict of manslaughter.

After hearing about a week of evidence, jurors began deliberations at 4:30 p.m. Monday and alerted the court that they'd reached a verdict at 7:45 p.m.

Court of King's Bench Justice Paul Jeffrey will hear sentencing arguments from prosecutor Margot Engley, as well as defence lawyers Beyak and co-counsel Curtis Mennie at a later date. A second-degree murder conviction comes with a life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 10 years.

In her closing arguments Monday, Beyak argued that Vincent was powerless to escape his abusive situation.

The 41-year-old admitted to fatally stabbing his father, but defence lawyer Katherin Beyak argued his disabilities coupled with the abuse meant he did not form the required intent for murder.

Vincent 'did not feel safe'

On top of the abuse, Vincent also deals with the challenges of autism, obsessive compulsive disorder and an intellectual disability that rendered him vulnerable and emotionally underdeveloped, Beyak said in her closing arguments to the jury.

"Mr. Fong found himself in a harmful situation, one he could not think of a way out of," said Beyak.

She argued that Vincent's complex challenges plus the abuse meant he "did not feel safe in the home."

Vincent's father did not accept his diagnoses; he believed he could discipline his son out of the behaviours — spinning as well as touching and licking things — according to the testimony of  both Vincent and his mother.

'No choice'

Kwan was known to slap Vincent, yell at him and call him names, including one derogatory Chinese word that was particularly harmful to Vincent, akin to calling him "retarted," Beyak told jurors.

Aware of his difficulties in life, Vincent said this word "pierced his heart" and scared him.

"We're not trying to excuse his behaviour, we're asking you to understand it," said Beyak.

She argued the evidence over the last week should raise a reasonable doubt as to whether Vincent was acting in self-defence.

"Following a pattern of physical and emotional abuse … he had no choice but to respond physically."

On Jan. 9, 2019, after returning home from a day program, Vincent was confronted by his father about his spinning. Kwan also hurled the insulting word Vincent despised being called.

Vincent pushed his father down a set of stairs inside the home, retrieved a knife and stabbed Kwan in the neck.

'He did this out of fear'

Beyak asked the jury to keep in mind two important pieces of evidence that she argued show her client's state of mind after the killing.

Vincent told the 911 operator and a police officer — captured on the officer's body-worn camera footage — that he was "not scared" of his father anymore.

"Right from the get-go, Vincent was expressing he did this out of fear," said Beyak.

But prosecutor Margot Engley took issue with Beyak's classification of Vincent's living situation as "abusive."

"While the word 'abuse' is thrown around quite a bit, it is not uncommon for people to have parents who yell at them and call them names," said Engley.

"Most people I know are scared of their dads."

'He intended to kill'

Engley said "many of us have grown up with less than ideal parents," and that if Vincent was suffering from "extreme" abuse, his mother "wouldn't have put up with it … she would have got him out of there."

"She has reimagined the past in a way that takes almost all responsibility from her son," said Engley.

"There were times when her husband slapped Vincent but only when he was really angry."

Engley said Vincent was capable of lying and "has the ability to be sneaky."

In asking the jury to find Vincent guilty of murder, Engley argued the evidence is clear: "he intended to kill."

During his testimony, Vincent came across as childlike and struggled at times to be understood by those in the courtroom.

Although she acknowledged that Vincent is "quite a sympathetic character," Engley asked jurors to put those feelings aside.

"Even if you have sympathy for Vincent, you cannot make your decision based on sympathy."