WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find distressing.
A young man who tried to kill a mother and her six-year-old son has been found not criminally responsible (NCR) by a Calgary judge for the near-fatal stabbing because he was suffering psychosis at the time and didn't understand his actions were morally wrong.
That means John Yag, 24, will be sent to a secure mental health facility instead of prison for the 2017 attack. His treatment and progress will be reviewed annually.
The end of the court process is no comfort to the victims who are still dealing with the physical and mental effects of their injuries and trauma.
"It is hard to put into words the confusion and terror you go through when you realize that someone you don't know, with no provocation, is stabbing your six-year-old and does not intend to stop until he is dead," said the mother in her victim impact statement read aloud in court on Wednesday.
"There is no time to process, only time to react."
Yag stopped taking meds
Yag, 24, was charged with attempted murder in the October 2017 attack on the boy and his mother, but after his trial began last November, renewed mental health concerns derailed the process.
A report prepared by a forensic psychiatrist found that although the accused did mean to kill the pair, hallucinations told him he had to — and that once the "illuminati" died, the victims would come back to life.
In the weeks leading up to the vicious attack, Yag had stopped taking his medication for schizophrenia and was smoking marijuana which he knew exacerbated his hallucinations.
The identities of Yag's victims are protected by a publication ban. CBC News will call them Sarah and Alex.
Sarah tried to shield son
On Oct. 6, 2017, Sarah took Alex for an after-dinner walk to Beacham Park in northwest Calgary around 7 p.m.
Suddenly, Yag ran up to them from behind, grabbing Alex and stabbing him in the neck.
Sarah's statement describes the harrowing attack.
"I can vividly picture the confusion on his face when he was grabbed and his hand was jerked away from mine. The terror and pain in his eyes after the first stab. I tried to get between the knife and [Alex] as much as possible."
Sarah wrote that if she became too injured to continue fighting, she planned to fall on top of her son to shield him.
By the time Yag was finished, Sarah had been stabbed 17 times, Alex was suffering nine knife wounds.
'Mommy, I'm bleeding'
A neighbour's yelling caused Yag to stop and walk away.
Sarah was on the pavement with Alex trying to keep him alive.
"He looked at me, his face ghostly white, and said 'Mommy, I'm bleeding!' I laid beside him and held his hand and told him what a brave boy he was, we were OK now, the ambulance was coming.
"I could see him starting to black out and I was terrified when I realized he could die. Then I got angry. 'Not on my watch,' I whispered. So I made him open his eyes and told him stories until the police got there."
Holding Alex's wounds closed, Sarah was in grave shape herself, bleeding while also trying to comfort her boy as the ambulance made its way to the injured pair.
Taken to different hospitals
Sarah's husband wrote a statement as well, and from the perspective of what didn't make it into the news stories and medical charts about his wife and son's experience.
"When the attacker managed to shake off his mom, he turned his attention back on the bloodied, crying six year old boy, ready to come and finish his work," wrote the father.
The pair were taken to different hospitals with each one crying out for each other, he said.
En route in the ambulance, paramedics heard Alex whisper to himself his mother's message: "I'm OK. I'm OK. I'm going to be OK."
"You said monsters aren't real. You lied," Alex said to his dad in the aftermath of the violence.
Alex is now 10 years old, and school hasn't been easy for the boy haunted by trauma that triggers him, said his father.
"He was different before but he was very different after, and different doesn't hold a lot of currency when you are trying to make friends at school."