WARNING: This story contains graphic details.
An hour before sunrise on March 10, 2020, firefighters in Port Coquitlam, B.C. stumbled on a gruesome scene — metal pots containing body parts set on fire and a young woman standing nearby “distant and withdrawn.”
According to court documents, when she was asked what she was burning, Tracy Chen replied “stuff I didn’t want.”
The body parts belonged to her twin sister and roommate — Ivy.
This week, Tracy was found not criminally responsible for Ivy’s death and dismemberment — the final act in a family tragedy almost impossible to contemplate.
Tracy’s lawyer says her parents live in Taiwan. As they grieve one daughter, they are still determined to love the other.
“They’re extremely heartbroken about what occurred,” Chris Johnson told the CBC.
“But being parents, they’re still the parents of their remaining child and they’ve tried to be supportive of her despite their grief over losing their other child.”
‘An entity created by the Canadian government’
Tracy Chen was charged with first-degree murder and committing an indignity to a dead body two and a half years ago.
On Thursday, a New Westminster B.C. Supreme Court judge found the 39-year-old not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder in relation to both counts after a joint submission from Crown and defence.
Ivy Chen was a massage therapist. Tracy did administrative work for her sister.
According to an admission of facts, Tracy stabbed her sister to death in their shared apartment, which was owned Ivy Chen.
A downstairs tenant told RCMP she heard frequent arguments in the unit above: “mostly one side, shouting … kind of spouts of rage” and a “barrage of aggression.”
On the day Tracy killed Ivy Chen, the downstairs tenant said she and her boyfriend were awoken by loud noises.
“The noise was described as the sound of a female ‘wailing in this despair’ in the bedroom directly above her,” according to the admission of facts.
Johnson said Tracy was examined by psychiatrists for both the Crown and defence.
Both concluded she had schizophrenia and was in the midst of a deep depression and was not capable of telling right from wrong — the requirement for a finding of not criminally responsible.
Chen believed Ivy had become possessed by an entity that planned to kill her.
“She was unclear at times as to what the entity was, but she did say on more than one occasion that it was an entity created by the Canadian government in order to experiment on her dead body,” Johnson said.
“She believed that this had to be done by her birthday, which was in May of 2020, and that led her to purchasing the tools that she ultimately used to dismember her sister with.”
‘I just needed to get rid of this’
Records taken from Tracy’s cellphone and laptop showed that she had researched murder weapons, dismembering tools and ways to dispose of and burn a body.
When they searched the apartment after the discovery of Ivy Chen’s body, police found a reciprocating saw, a chainsaw, a machete and two hatchets. They also found a four-litre container of muriatic acid in the bathroom.
According to the statement of fact, Tracy Chen tried to dispose of Ivy Chen’s body by dissolving it in the apartment. But when that failed, she put the remaining parts in metal pots and loaded them into her black Ford Fiesta.
She drove to Minnekhada Regional Park, a giant wooded area to the west of the Pitt River, just before dawn.
“After parking the Fiesta, she proceeded to a spot within the nearby forest, placed the parts of the corpse inside the metal pots and set them on fire,” the statement of fact says.
Firefighters showed up shortly after, finding Tracy Chen standing near the spots with a stick.
“I just needed to get rid of this,” she told them. “I got to get rid of it.”
Chen was arrested within an hour of the discovery of her sister’s body. She gave two statements to police. She told one officer she took eight types of medication daily but hadn’t had any for 48 hours at the time of her arrest.
As a result of the not criminally responsible finding, Chen has been sent to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam.
Johnson says his client “continues to suffer from schizophrenia and depression.”
“She’s a very quiet, sad person, is probably the best way to describe her,” he said.