The accused in a 2017 Vernon murder case has once again been found unfit to stand trial.
Richard William Fairgrieve is charged with second-degree murder in relation to the death of Willy Bartz in Vernon. Bartz was found brutally murdered in a room at the Sundance Suites on July 19, 2017.
Fairgrieve was arrested in October 2018 but was deemed unfit to stand trial in 2020 due to medical reasons. Fairgrieve had suffered multiple strokes while in custody, leaving him unable to understand writing, speech or follow along with court proceedings.
However, in November 2022 the B.C. Review Board reversed its decision and decided that Fairgrieve was in fact fit to stand trial, and ordered his return to court to retry the issue of fitness.
Three days of testimony were heard in Vernon court earlier this month, and on Tuesday, June 20, Justice Alison Beames gave her judgement in B.C. Supreme Court based on those hearings, deciding that Fairgrieve is unfit to stand trial and sending him back to a forensic psychiatric hospital.
Fairgrieve was one of two co-accused in the murder of Willy Bartz. Jacqueline Nicole Leavins was also charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter. In March 2021 she was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Willy Bartz’ sister, Teresa Bartz, was in the Vernon courtroom Tuesday. She said she was glad that Fairgrieve was found unfit to stand trial.
“He’ll spend more time being found unfit than he would if he was found guilty,” she said, explaining Fairgrieve would be released early for time already served if he were to be found guilty.
“I’m happy with the decision, I think that’s where he belongs — in the hospital in that ward where he’s kept locked up and looked after.”
Teresa said her brother was “such a kind person” who helped out at the soup kitchen and the Salvation Army, and “would give the shirt off his back” to someone in need.
“It’s painful every day,” she said of his death. “It’s a wound that never heals.”