A Toronto computer technician who admitted strangling his 8-year-old daughter to death has been found guilty of second-degree murder.
An Ontario Superior Court jury took about five hours Thursday to convict Rick Wilde, 39, rejecting the defence theory that he was not criminally responsible for his actions on Oct. 18, 2007.
“Yes, yes, yes,” gasped sobbing supporters of Wilde’s ex-wife Karen, after the jury foreman announced the verdict. Wilde stared straight ahead and didn’t react.
Wilde admitted he choked Megan with his hands then tied her bathrobe belt tightly around her neck after tucking her into bed in the family’s home near Don Mills Rd. and Steeles Ave.
About an hour later, the husky, tall, red-haired man drove himself to a police station and confessed. Police, firefighters and paramedics raced to the three-storey townhouse and knocked on the door. Karen answered, unaware of what happened. An autopsy concluded Megan, who attended Cliffwood Public School, died of ligature strangulation.
Wilde had been alone with his two children, including an older daughter Mariah, then 10, while Karen ran a weekly outreach program for mothers at the Don Valley Bible Chapel. Mariah was unharmed and heard nothing unusual coming from her sister’s room that night.
Last week, Wilde testified he choked Megan because at the time it felt like “the right thing to do,” and said it felt like a “natural event” akin to washing dirty dishes. Church members were shocked following the arrest of Wilde, who had no criminal record or any history with police.
He told court he has experienced auditory and visual hallucinations for the past 20 years and in 2002 attempted suicide and was hospitalized. He also described erratic use of prescription drugs, including an antidepressant.
A defence psychiatrist, Dr. John Paul Fedoroff, concluded Wilde likely suffers from schizophrenia or some sort of psychosis that left him unable to appreciate the nature and consequences of his actions.
But a psychiatrist testifying for the Crown said there is no evidence Wilde was suffering a major mental illness.
Despite “self-reporting” hallucinations, nobody close to him, including his wife, ever noticed Wilde experiencing any psychotic symptoms, Dr. Scott Woodside told the jury on Monday.
“In my opinion, that’s not consistent with a person suffering a major mental illness like schizophrenia,” he said.
Defence lawyer Christopher Avery said he was disappointed with the verdict and believes Fedoroff provided “the only reasonable explanation for what happened that night.”
He said it is unfortunate Wilde is now headed to prison instead of receiving mental health treatment.
“A life sentence instead of mental treatment is what the system provided.”
Justice Gary Trotter said he was imposing the automatic life sentence but will not decide parole eligibility until after a hearing later this fall. Parole eligibility for second-degree murder is between 10 and 25 years.