Sentencing hearing delayed for La Loche school shooter, defence says he has FASD

Two defence witnesses say a teenager who shot and killed four people and injured seven others at a home and a high school in northern Saskatchewan has fetal alcohol syndrome.

The conclusions, based on the findings of a pre-sentencing report that looks at an Indigenous offender’s background, delayed a sentencing hearing for the teen Friday. The Crown now wants to cross examine the defence witnesses who made the diagnosis.

“It makes reference to some of the drinking history of (the teen’s) biological mom,” defence lawyer Aaron Fox said of the pre-sentencing report.

As a result, Fox said psychiatrist Dr. Mansfield Mela and neuropsychologist Dr. Monty Nelson “feel they can confirm the diagnosis” of fetal alcohol syndrome.

Judge Janet McIvor, who is presiding over the case in Meadow Lake, Sask., granted the Crown’s request to delay the hearing until Sept. 1, but she also said “this needs to keep moving” forward.

“Perhaps it’s the nature of these kind of matters, but there seems to be issues arising at the last minute,” said McIvor.

It’s not clear whether final arguments in the sentencing, which were scheduled for Friday, will go ahead next week.

The teen — who cannot be named because he was just shy of his 18th birthday when the shootings occurred — pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder in the January 2016 shooting in La Loche.

Some victims have already told court that the teen should be sentenced as an adult because of the severity of his crimes.

“A lot of people, I think, want to move this process forward and move onto their healing journey,” La Loche Mayor Robert St. Pierre said outside the courthouse Friday.

“So delaying it again on the defence, just adds to that anxiety again. When are we going to go through this? What’s the end result here? Is he going to be sentenced as a youth? Is he going to be sentenced as an adult? A lot of people want some closure, so it just prolongs that process.”

The hearing is to determine whether the teen is sentenced as an adult or a youth. He could get six years of custody and four years probation if sentenced as a youth but faces a life sentence as an adult.

In June, the teen apologized to those who died, those who survived and their families.

An agreed statement of facts read out in court when the hearing started in May detailed the shooter’s murderous path to the community’s high school.

Court heard that the teen first killed Dayne Fontaine, 17, and then his brother Drayden, who was 13. Dayne pleaded for his life before he was shot 11 times, including twice in the head. Drayden was shot twice.

The teen then drove to the high school, where surveillance footage captured his frightening walk through the halls, his shotgun raised, as students and staff ran in fear.

When police arrived, the shooter ran into a women’s washroom where he put his weapon down and gave himself up.

The teen said he didn’t know what he was thinking when he pulled the trigger.

Nelson testified for the defence that the teen had an IQ of 68, which is considered well below average. Mela testified that the teen has symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, an intellectual disability, major depressive disorder and displays signs of fetal alcohol syndrome.

However, a child psychiatrist who testified for the Crown said the teen did not come across as being clearly developmentally delayed or slow.

McIvor has already said she will deliver her sentence at a later date and indicated that may happen in La Loche.

St. Pierre said there are “some reservations” in the community about that.

“But other community members have said they’d rather have it in the community, so it’s still a toss up,” he said. “I’m still not sure where that’s going to lead and still need to have more consultation.”

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