WESTLOCK – Over four months last winter a Westlock woman suffering from “significant mental health issues” amplified by an addiction to drugs and alcohol was involved in a string of bizarre crimes that included her repeatedly stabbing a man, while on another occasion she walked unannounced into a home and threatened two strangers, then told the victim’s teenaged stepson that she was his real mother and then demanded his dog.
Appearing in Westlock Provincial Court July 27 via CCTV from the healthcare pod of the Edmonton Remand Centre, Melissa Lynn Reeves, clad in a yellow jumpsuit, pleaded guilty to a single count of assault causing bodily harm and three charges of being unlawfully in a dwelling house, while two charges of possession of stolen property under $5,000 and single counts of theft under $5,000 and possession of a controlled substance were withdrawn.
Judge Jim Wheatley agreed to the joint-sentence submission from Crown prosecutor Alison Moore and defence lawyer Gary Smith for a six-month jail sentence, deemed served as Reeves has been locked up since her arrest at the end of January. Reeves, who had no previous criminal record, also received a 12-month suspended sentence which includes a host of conditions, including being banned from the home of the victims, and will also serve 18 months of probation — the judge declined to impose a victim-fine surcharge.
Moore said Reeves suffers from “significant mental health issues” while Smith noted she’s a diagnosed schizophrenic and is addicted to drugs and alcohol and will benefit from “the structure of a probation order.”
“She does have support in the community. And she’s in way better shape today than any other time I’ve spoken with her. She’s on medication now and it’s levelled out. But when she’s off her medication and she does methamphetamine it exasperates her symptoms as you can see from all the facts laid out today. She obviously needs counselling and assistance,” said Smith. “Ms. Reeves is better off to relocate if we can find housing for her in Edmonton so she can access all those mental health services.”
Moore told court on Jan. 21, 2022, Westlock RCMP were called to a 102nd Street residence after a man had been stabbed multiple times — Smith told court that due to “intoxication by alcohol and drugs” Reeves could not dispute any of the facts.
“RCMP observed blood throughout the residence on the walls, floors and items in the house. RCMP located the victim lying face down in a nearby bedroom with no shirt on and he was covered in blood. He had a sustained a deep gouge approximately one inch in diameter to his right upper bicep and another deep cut was located to the back of his right arm and he had several smaller cuts to his hands and chest,” said Moore.
The man was taken to the Westlock Healthcare Centre and got stitched up, while during the investigation police learned from a roommate that the victim had asked him not to call RCMP. Another woman, who had been at the residence earlier, told police that Reeves had admitted to her that she had stabbed the man. Moore noted that the victim, who had previously told police he didn’t think Reeves stabbed him, had declined help from Victim Services and had not tendered a victim-impact statement.
Court then heard that on Dec. 26, 2021, police were called to a home on 105th Street after Reeves had first knocked on the front door, then walked in when the homeowner opened it. Inside the home she began screaming at the man, then “began speaking in gibberish” — she was arrested on scene.
Moore then told court that on Dec. 9, 2021, police got a call that Reeves had entered a 107th Street residence and had told the woman that she was landlord of the home and that she and her 14-year-old stepson had to leave. She then told the teen that she was his real mother and that his dog belonged to her — both had never met Reeves before that day.
Finally, on Oct. 20, 2021, Westlock RCMP were called to break and enter on 102nd Street and were told by a worker at a treatment centre that an unknown woman was sleeping on a couch in the home attached to the facility. When police walked in the front door, Reeves was sneaking out the back door and was arrested.
Getting the help she needs
Smith said that if the charges against Reeves had arisen in Edmonton, the case would have been diverted to Mental Health Court which ultimately would have afforded her more help and “access to all the services.” Judge Wheatley agreed and called the Mental Health Court a “remarkable program” and hopes it will be rolled out to other jurisdictions.
“It is working so, so well. It relieves our dockets of so many of these kinds of situations which obviously require more. The program is set up so that resident psychiatrists from the University Hospital attend at the court so they can immediately talk to people and there’s immediate triage done,” said Judge Wheatley. “It’s quite a remarkable program and it’s working incredibly well.”
Added Moore: “I would love to see a similar model imposed in our regions.”