Family tears up after Teenage Heads son Gord Lewis found not criminally responsible for his death
On August 7th, Brian Lewis lost his brother, Hamilton rock star Gord Lewis, and – in many ways – his nephew Jon Lewis as well.
It was the day last summer that Gord, 65, was found dead at his home. His son Jon was later charged with murder.
The death of Teenage Head’s guitarist in Hamilton shook the city and the music world, but it hit Brian’s family harder than anyone else.
“We are devastated,” he said.
“There were so many conflicting emotions and thoughts … we miss him and Jonny,” Lewis told CBC Hamilton.
Months later in December, Jon was found not criminally responsible for the murder due to his mental state.
CBC Hamilton also previously reported on Jon’s mental health issues. According to Brian, he lives with schizoaffective disorder.
Killing appears to be an exception to the rule, as numerous studies, including a 2013 study by the American Public Health Association, indicate that people with diagnosed mental disorders rarely commit acts of violence.
Jon’s family and lawyer say this is a case where someone fell through the cracks and cannot find support.
With Jon indefinitely in a hospital and Gord dead, Brian and others try to pick up the pieces of their broken family.
“The family is divided in their attitude towards what happened and it’s quite devastating to our unit,” Brian told CBC Hamilton after the court ruling.
There’s also an opportunity, Brian said, for the family to bring this to the attention of people in similar situations to Jon’s.
Jon tried to get medical help last summer
dr Joseph Carl Ferencz testified in court at the end of December. The forensic psychiatric expert prepared Jon’s assessment report during his stay at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton after he killed Gord.
The court heard Jon, 42, suffered from a mental illness that began when he was around 30. He ended up at St. Joseph’s several times in the years before the murder.
Ferencz said Jon was not on regular medication and had not received psychiatric treatment in a year prior to the murder.
He said Jon’s delusions had increased in the weeks leading up to Gord’s death. Ferencz said Jon believed that people would take control of his father and that his father was poisoning him with anthrax.
That year, Gord also stated that Jon “lost touch with reality” and worried that Jon might harm him.
Ferencz said Jon was “extremely distressed and his delusions became rampant” around July 28, prompting Jon to make 10 attempts to be treated in emergency rooms from that day through August 4.
Three of those trials took place at St Joseph’s, but the court heard he either refused a bed in crisis care or left before he was judged.
Six other attempts took place at various hospitals in the greater Toronto area, where he was looking for drugs for anthrax poisoning. He also ended up at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center on August 1, but was eventually discharged.
It fed Jon’s delusions and he began to believe that the group of people trying to kill him were connected to the hospitals, Ferencz said.
Uncle took Jon in before he killed
Brian said that Jon sent Brian “desperate pleas for help” the week before Gord’s death.
Gord’s brother said he brought Jon to his house and they stayed up most of the night.
Brian said they would visit a clinic together the next morning, but Jon chose to go home instead.
“The last I heard from him was a text from him on Friday saying, ‘I love you Uncle Brian,'” Brian said.
“I answered and the next thing was the police showed up at my apartment on Sunday night.”
The court heard the Hamilton Spectator contacted police on August 7 after Jon sent a string of incoherent emails to local media, including CBC Hamilton, stating his father was dead and decaying.
When officers visited the apartment at 175 Catharine St. S., they spoke to Jon and found Gord’s body.
An autopsy found that Jon had stabbed Gord 43 times.
Ferencz said Jon didn’t leave the apartment because he was still battling delusions that made him believe someone was trying to kill him. Jon also didn’t call the police because he thought they were involved in the alleged conspiracy to kill him.
Now Jon is locked up in the hospital indefinitely. Larissa Fedak, Jon’s attorney, said it will be years before Jon is released.
The family wants to raise awareness about mental health
Brian said the situation pushed him and his wife to do something to raise awareness about mental health.
“My wife in particular is passionate about doing something. We don’t know what that looks like yet…I don’t know about a silver lining, but it could make a difference,” he said.
Brian also has a broader message for the public.
“If someone is living with someone who is experiencing mental illness and opening up about it, take it seriously. Educate yourself, talk to the person, do research so you can educate yourself and advocate for that person,” he said.
“Don’t stop pushing in the process, and when you think you’ve given up, you think you’ve exhausted yourself, take another step … because you just don’t know what the other person is going through.” “
If you’re having a mental health crisis, there’s help out there: