|Narin Sok is pictured on July 30, 2008, the day he was arrested by police and charged with the second-degree murder of his wife Deang Huon.Photograph by: Supplied, Edmonton Journal|
May 9, 2011
By Ryan Cormier, Postmedia News
Edmonton Jounal (Alberta, Canada)
EDMONTON — In a rare move, Crown and defence lawyers have agreed that an Edmonton man charged with the second-degree murder of his wife is not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder caused by "heavy metal toxicity."
After his arrest, Narin Sok told doctors he thought his wife might have been possessed by the "snake spirit" of his dead brother. He has admitted he killed her in the couple's downtown apartment on July 30, 2008.
Deang Huon, 40, died of strangulation.
In a joint submission, defence lawyer Peter Royal and Crown prosecutor Robert Fata agreed that Sok was suffering from lead, cadmium and manganese toxicity the day his wife was found dead.
The condition is attributed to years of working with scrap metal, and the fact that in hours before the murder, Sok tried to melt "magic belts" he and his wife had used in hopes of increasing their chances of pregnancy. That last concentrated exposure occurred in the couple's enclosed apartment.
"In my 36 years of practice I have never seen another case like this, and doubt we will ever see another one," Royal told court.
Sok, 51, was in a deranged state when police found him and his wife's body in their apartment after concerned relatives asked that someone check on the couple's welfare.
Police found a bizarre scene, according to an agreed statement of facts.
Sok was sitting in the bedroom, ripping up a black garbage bag to add to numerous others that covered the floors and windows. Next to him, his wife's dead body was partially covered with garbage bags, rice sacks and other debris. Rigor mortis had already set in.
Sok was taken to police headquarters in the back seat of a cruiser, where he spit and complained of thirst.
In his cell, he urinated on the floor and simultaneously complained the room was dirty.
He was soon moved to the Royal Alexandra Hospital, where he was treated for kidney failure, liver damage and facial scratches and bruises. There was also damage to his heart. He was then transferred to Alberta Hospital for a psychological assessment.
Starting in 1986, Sok had spent a total of nine years off and on working in various scrap-metal yards. Largely, his job was to cut and peel wires to separate various metals to be recycled. He told doctors he usually wore gloves but only used a mask sporadically because it was uncomfortably hot.
He told doctors his job was dusty and could turn his mask black when he did wear it.
When he returned from a 2007 visit to Cambodia, Sok brought back two "magic belts" made of zinc, silver and lead that were supposed to increase the chances he and his wife could conceive a child. The couple constantly wore two belts each, he told doctors.
Huon never became pregnant.
The night before his wife's death, Sok tried to melt those belts in a pan on the stove. As the apartment filled with smoke, he disabled the smoke detector, but had already covered the windows with garbage bags in what doctors later thought was a sign of increasing paranoia.
He said he doesn't remember going to sleep that night. Sometime after, the couple fought and Huon was strangled.
Sok told doctors he couldn't understand what happened in the moments before his wife's death, or why he punctured her right arm with a thin metal rod. He remembered placing a chair astride her neck then using a rice sack to weigh it down. He remembered both of them falling asleep.
At one point, he told doctors he thought his wife might have been possessed by the "snake spirit" of his deceased brother.
Heavy metal toxicity occurs when the amount ingested exceeds the body's ability to eliminate them. The effects vary greatly, depending on the level of toxicity and the specific metal involved.
Doctors concluded that Sok's toxicity started because of his occupation, leading to paranoia and abnormal behaviour.
It also led to the impaired judgment that led him to burn the metal belts, which caused acute poisoning by inhalation.
The Cambodian couple married in Edmonton in 1994. Between then and the murder there was no evidence of violence in the relationship and Sok did not have a criminal record.
Court was told Sok is now fully recovered from his mental illness.
The trial continues.