Port Coquitlam woman who killed her sister found not criminally responsibly due to mental health disorder

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Warning: This story contains disturbing content.

A Port Coquitlam woman who murdered her twin sister in their Shaughnessy Street apartment was found not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder, according to a recently published court decision.

Pen Jung Tracy Chen stabbed her sister, Pen Yun Ivy Chen, in March 2020.

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The decision facing the court was whether Pen Jung Tracy should be considered not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder, according to a November ruling made by Justice Michael J. Brundrett.

Two forensic psychiatrists each concluded Pen Jung Tracy “was deprived from the ability to know that her actions were morally wrong” due to her schizophrenia, Brundrett noted.

“Every humane system of justice must provide for the disposition of cases where the perpetrator of the alleged crime is not criminally responsible,” Brundrett wrote, quoting a prior decision.

The case is now set to be assessed by the B.C. Review Board. The board is responsible for protecting the rights of people found not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder, as well as protecting the public.

The facts of the case

Originally from Taiwan, the sisters moved to Canada in 1993 when they were nine years old.

Pen Jung Tracy worked doing administrative and personal assistant work for a contractor. Pen Yun Ivy worked as a certified massage therapist.

Following a history of mental health difficulties, Pen Jung Tracy’s emotional problems got progressively worse starting in 2012. Pen Yun Ivy reported that her sister had wanted to harm her since around 2014, according to the ruling.

In the days before the murder, Pen Jung Tracy went online to research murder weapons and ways to dispose of and burn a body. She was also spotted in a Canadian Tire buying a face shield, a life jacket, a rope, and a helmet.

On March 8, 2020, a downstairs neighbour reported hearing loud noises early on a Sunday morning. “The noise was of a female wailing in despair,” according to the ruling.

Pen Yun Ivy was later found to have died from “multiple sharp-force injuries.”

Pen Jung Tracy dismembered the corpse of her sister. She tried and failed to dissolve parts of Pen Yun Ivy’s corpse.

Two days later

Shortly after 6 a.m. on March 10, 2020, the Port Coquitlam Fire Department rolled to Minnekhada Park after getting a report of a suspicious fire.

Pen Jung Tracy had put body parts in metal pots and set them on fire. She seemed “distant and withdrawn.” She told a firefighter she was trying to “get rid of this.”

In searching her car, investigators found gloves, four plastic bags with blood, three shovels, cooking pots, safety goggles, and a headlamp with blood on it.

Psychiatrists’ evidence

Pen Jung Tracy felt that people were spying on her. She also heard voices that gave her commands, according to her mother.

Pen Jung Tracy thought her sister worked for the Canadian Government who were actually aliens trying to kill her, according to Dr. Andrew Kolchak, a forensic psychiatrist retained by the defence.

Pen Jung Tracy received messages from God telling her to kill her sister. “She began to believe that it was her only chance because if she [didn’t] succeed her sister [would] kill her,” according to Kolchak.

There is a possibility that Pen Jung Tracy “harbored animosity towards her sister based in non-psychotic beliefs,” according to Kolchak, who noted their frequent arguments.

“. . . at the time of the offense, [Pen Jung Tracy] may have been angry at the victim and harmed her in the heat of her anger,” Kolchak stated.

However, when considering the depth, breadth and intensity of Pen Jung Tracy’s psychotic experiences, she likely acted to: “protect herself from danger befalling on her from her sister Ivy whom [Pen Jung Tracy] believed was an impostor,” Kolchak concluded.

Pen Jung Tracy didn’t think of any other way to save herself, according to her own report.

The psychiatrist who represented the Crown, Dr. Rakesh Lamba, agreed that Pen Jung Tracy was suffering from schizophrenia at the time of the murder.

Pen Jung Tracy suffered from auditory hallucinations and paranoid delusions stemming from paranoid schizophrenia, a progressive, neuro-degenerative brain disease, according to Lamba.

Following a head in jury in 2004 or 2005, Pen Jung Tracy also suffered from what is commonly known as chronic pain disorder, an ailment which caused chronic headaches and increasingly common periods of insomnia.

She also likely suffers from major depression, according to Lamba.

“[Pen Jung Tracy] did not receive a diagnosis or treatment for schizophrenia prior to the alleged index offence,” Lamba noted.

“Both schizophrenia and chronic pain are by definition and by their natural course, chronic persistent conditions. These were both likely present in Ms. Chen at the time of the alleged murder.”

Pen Jung Tracy’s decision to cut and try to burn her sister’s body were, “driven by the delusional belief that her sister would come back alive if she did not do so. . . . she was unable to consider the moral wrongfulness of these actions.”

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