Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday 16 September 1998

'The secret life' of the Getkates

Violence, abuse led woman to kill husband, court told

Peter Hum
The Ottawa Citizen

The killing of Maury Getkate, jurors in an Ottawa courtroom learned yesterday, is not a whodunit, but a why-done-it.

In the opening minutes of the trial and before any witnesses were called, defence lawyer Patrick McCann told the jury that Lilian Getkate did shoot her husband to death in December 1995 in the bedroom of their Falaise Road home.

However, Ms. Getkate, a small 38-year-old woman described as a Brownie leader and churchgoer, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

In their opening addresses to the 10-woman two-man jury, Mr. McCann and assistant Crown attorney Julianne Parfett offered starkly different summaries of the evidence they intend to put forward.

From Ms. Parfett, the jury heard of the Getkates' financial woes, and the police discovery of old, unpaid bills at the Getkate home. Investigators also found a notepad which had written on it: "pension: $2,100, back pay: two wks., vacation time: 12 days if Maury dies (and) pension: submit a claim for myself and kids," Ms. Parfett said. Investigators also found, hidden in the Getkate basement workshop, a Ruger Mini-14 .223-calibre rifle.

Mr. McCann in his address depicted Ms. Getkate as a woman suffering from "battered wife syndrome" who killed a man caught up in weaponry and paramilitary training -- her emotional and sexual tormentor.

The jury would learn of the "secret life of Maury and Lillian Getkate ... the black background against which everything happened," Mr. McCann said.

The jury heard from Ms. Parfett that the Getkates met in Alberta in 1981 and, after living together, were married in 1984. They had a daughter in 1986 and two years later moved to Guelph so that Mr. Getkate could pursue his PhD studies. The couple had a second child, a son, in 1990 and later moved to Ottawa. In 1995, Mr. Getkate began working as a psychologist for the RCMP. He was 37 when he died.

Just before 5 a.m. on Dec. 8, 1995, a woman called 911 from the Getkates' home at 978 Falaise Rd., the prosecutor told the jury. Police found Mr. Getkate shot in his bed, and he was later found to have died from two gunshot wounds to the back and neck.

Ms. Getkate told police that, before her husband was killed, she was sleeping with her daughter because the girl had had a nightmare. She said that she heard a person run out her front door after her husband was shot, Ms. Parfett said.

Investigators found no signs of forced entry or struggle at the home, she said. They also found the unpaid bills and the steno pad, Ms. Parfett said.

Mr. McCann spoke of his client as a person with no history of violence, and as a "caring, affectionate woman," a Brownie leader and churchgoer.

While some witnesses may testify that Mr. Getkate was a "paragon of virtue," Mr. McCann said that he subjected his wife to increasing amounts of violence and sexual abuse in the weeks before she shot him.

Mr. Getkate also had Ms. Getkate convinced that with his paramilitary skills he could find her if she left him, take their children and disappear, Mr. McCann said.

"He had her conditioned to believe he was all-powerful," he said. Hours before the killing, Mr. Getkate raped his wife "to teach her a lesson," Mr. McCann said.

Ottawa-Carleton police Sgt. John Copeland, the Crown's first witness, gave the jury photographs of the Getkate house's doors, which he said showed no signs of forced entry.

The jury also saw a picture of Mr. Getkate after he was killed, showing him wearing a medical apparatus over his face. Sgt. Copeland said the device was worn by patients suffering from sleep disturbances. The device's pump had been turned off, he said.

Sgt. Copeland showed a photo of the Ruger firearm, found in a basement workshop under a work bench. In a basement closet, police found ammunition and a collection of weaponry. Police also recovered a shotgun that was loaded, cocked and ready to fire.

Sgt. Copeland also found the steno pad with monetary jottings in a dining-room buffet, as well as a woman's small ski jacket with three unfired .223-calibre cartridges.

Under cross-examination, Sgt. Copeland noted that the Ruger rifle had been modified. A "flash eliminator" had been added at the end of its barrel to suppress the flash of the gun if it is fired at night. "I know of no other reason (for the change) but for military purposes," Sgt. Copeland said.

Sgt. Copeland also said that he found a glass cylinder that he suspected was a home-made explosive. RCMP experts confirmed his suspicion, he said.

Regional police Const. Steve Kerr said that he seized 572 rounds of .223-calibre ammunition and a bandolier.

Under cross-examination, Const. Kerr displayed the confiscated weaponry to jurors item by item, including an illegal switchblade, a scythe-like martial-arts weapon, an illegal pair or martial-arts nunchaku sticks, prohibited throwing stars, two sharp "Ninja claw" gloves, and several knives.

At Mr. McCann's urging, Const. Kerr also identified a long series of confiscated books, including Sniping, The Complete Guide to Lock-picking, Man-trapping, Kitchen Improvised Plastic Explosives, and Techniques of Surveillance and Undercover Operations. He also found books on modifying firearms to a homemade shotgun.

When Ms. Parfett re-examined him, Const. Kerr noted that the bulk of the books had been published in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He also said that while he had found books on building weapons, he did not find any homemade weapons.

The trial continues today and is expected last several weeks. Mr. McCann has indicated that Ms. Getkate will likely testify in her own defence.