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'Tragic situation': Dementia concerns for woman accused of trying to kill husband, judge hears

A 73-year-old Cochrane woman is charged with attempted murder but her lawyer says there are serious dementia concerns. (David Bell/CBC - image credit)
A 73-year-old Cochrane woman is charged with attempted murder but her lawyer says there are serious dementia concerns. (David Bell/CBC - image credit)

The lawyer for a woman accused of trying to kill her husband called the situation "tragic," telling a Calgary judge there are "significant" concerns his client is suffering from dementia.

Rhonda Campbell, 73, was charged with attempted murder last week after Cochrane RCMP were called to the home she shares with her husband.

Police found the victim — Campbell's husband — with serious injuries and took him to a Calgary hospital, where he had surgery.

Ten of Campbell's family members showed up in court for her first appearance on Monday.

'A tragic situation'

After visiting with Campbell, forensic psychiatrist Dr. David Tano recommended a 30-day mental health assessment.

"She may not be fit," said Campbell's lawyer, Adriano Iovinelli.

A finding that someone is unfit to stand trial means they are unable to understand the court process and can not instruct their lawyer.

Iovinelli told Justice Mark Tyndale that immediately after waking up from surgery, the husband expressed that he wanted to communicate with his wife.

"This is a tragic situation," said Iovinelli.

Judge addresses family 

Currently a court order prevents the two from having any contact.

Although there is a shortage of space, staff is working to get Campbell into the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre as quickly as possible so that she can get out of the Calgary Remand Centre, where she's being held.

The matter will be back before a judge on March 4. At the end of the brief hearing, Tyndale thanked the family for attending.

"I'm sorry for the tragedy," Tyndale told the family.

This situation is reminiscent of another local case involving two seniors.

2nd Calgary-area case

In 2015, Fred Van Zuiden, 85, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of his wife, Audrey Van Zuiden, 80.

The pair were married for nearly 60 years and family described them as "soulmates."

Van Zuiden suffered from dementia at the time. For that reason, he was ultimately found unfit to stand trial.

At the time, the prosecutor called the case "heartbreaking."

Van Zuiden died in 2019 at a care home in Camrose, Alta.

"Unfortunately, we're seeing more cases of dementia-related criminal charges before the court," said Iovinelli.

"Our population is getting older, and there's a serious concern for a facility for these individuals that present with dementia."