Calgary Sun

November 10, 1999

Suffering from delusions okay

Details of a troubled life

By PETER SMITH -- Calgary Sun

CRANBROOK, B.C. -- Diana Yano, who killed her children believing she was sending them to heaven, heard her parents threatening "hari-kari" when she was a little girl, a court heard yesterday.

In finding Yano not criminally responsible for the deaths of Brittany, 5, and Joshua, 3, because of her mental disorder, Judge Tom Melnick outlined her life of mental anguish.

Yano was the youngest of four girls, living in B.C. with their parents.

During the Second World War, Yano's parents, being Japanese-Canadians, were interned in a camp in Alberta, which embittered them and when two of their daughters befriended Canadians, the bitterness led the parents to evict them from the family.

"Diana's parents threatened to commit hari-kari," ( Japanese ceremonial suicide), said Melnick.

This family rift, coming when Diana was seven years old, led her to decide to be especially successful for her parents, leading her to become a perfectionist.

She undertook two university degrees, in nursing and in music simultaneously, the strain sending her into a depression, which at the age of 19 years led to a suicide attempt when she slashed her wrists.

Melnick said the shame of the first suicide attempt drove her to a second attempt when she tried to kill herself by crashing her car off a bypass.

Diana suffered severe back injuries for which she had surgery, and became severely depressed and psychotic -- even delusional for six months.

The cultural influence of her family meant she was taken under their wing with no medication for her problems -- and though she improved, she could never go back to nursing.

Diana embarked on a new career in engineering in which she attained exemplary reports, and for a time her life went well.

In 1989, Diana's mother died of breast cancer.

This was important, for when Diana was diagnosed with highly-malignant breast cancer in 1997 after discovering a lump in her breast while breast-feeding Joshua, her first thought was to stay alive for her young children.

Risking her own life for the sake of her children, she underwent experimental chemotherapy so toxic it destroyed her bone marrow -- more marrow having to be harvested and transplanted to replace it.

And worse.

Psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Zoffman told the court the chemicals in the chemotherapy acted on her pre-existing tendency for depression, and became the trigger that brought on a new state of depression.

Put on medication, Diana, resorting to her wish to be self-reliant, decided to go without it, and stopped taking her anti-depressants in January last year.

It took only three months before she was significantly depressed and worse, she became psychotic, said Zoffman.

She went on holiday with her sisters in B.C. -- and attempted suicide again, which landed her back in the Foothills Hospital in Calgary, where she was worse than before.

"Unfortunately, Mrs. Yano continued to want to stop the medication, displaying an intense belief she could correct the problems herself," said Zoffman.

In January this year, she stopped her medication again and by the early spring she showed a hyper-manic episode, said Zoffman, wildly over-spending, becoming over-talkative, over-active and agitated.

Things worsened this summer.

"The depression slowly worsened until she was experiencing delusions and hallucinations," said the psychiatrist.

The delusions led her to believe her problems were affecting and damaging her children.

"She believed the only way to save them was to kill herself.

"This progressed so that at the time of the children's deaths, the only way she saw to save them, was that she had to drown them to send them to heaven."

Zoffman, who is still treating Diana, told the court Diana had been a loving mother.

"My impression is that the actions of killing her children are completely inconsistent with the woman I'm treating today," she said.

KILLER MOM COULD WALK AWAY FREE

Diana Yano who killed her two children in June while being mentally incapable of knowing it was wrong, could walk out of court here a free woman later today.

Defence lawyer Patrick Dearden said three options exist for B.C. Supreme Court judge Tom Melnick at today's disposition hearing for Yano, who was found not guilty of second-degree murder of her two children, being not criminally responsible because of her mental disorder.

"The three options are absolute discharge, conditional discharge or a detention order with conditions," said Dearden.

If Yano received an absolute discharge she would walk out of court free, he said.

If she received a detention order, she would be held in custody initially for 90 days.

"Following any order by the court, within 90 days, the forensic review board has to further deal with the case and make a further determination at that point," said Dearden.

"So the forensic review board down the road will be dealing with the case, depending on what happens."

Copyright© 1999, Canoe Limited Partnership.