Desmond inquiry hears of veteran researching and purchasing rifle before killing

Desmond inquiry hears of veteran researching and purchasing rifle before killing

HALIFAX — An RCMP investigator testified Wednesday about the planning a former soldier undertook — including researching weapons online — before he shot his family and himself over three years ago.

Cpl. Gerry Rose-Berthiaume, the lead investigator in the Lionel Desmond case, testified Wednesday at a public inquiry in Guysborough, N.S.

Among other things, the inquiry is examining whether Desmond had access to mental health and domestic violence services — and whether he should have been able to buy a gun on Jan. 3, 2017, the date of the killings in Upper Big Tracadie.

The investigator said family members told him the veteran had struggled to cope after returning from Afghanistan in 2007, and had conflicts with his spouse, Shanna, that seemed to spiral further out of control after a New Year’s Eve incident.

The Mountie said “certain things would just set (Desmond) off,” and he told the inquiry that Desmond became embarrassed and upset after driving Shanna’s new truck off an icy road that evening.

Rose-Berthiaume said family members told investigators that Desmond remained distressed after the incident, and there were tensions through the night until Shanna asked him to leave her home.

“Based on the investigation, I believe, and the investigators believe, this (incident) set this chain of events in motion,” he said.

The officer said that on Jan. 1, Desmond checked himself into St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish, N.S., and was released after spending a night there and being seen by two doctors.

Rose-Berthiaume said Desmond spent Jan. 2 packing his clothes and bringing them to a relative’s home, but on Jan. 3 he drove into Antigonish and, after making a medical appointment, purchased a gun at a hunting and fishing store between 3 and 4 p.m.

The inquiry has previously heard testimony that Desmond had a legal right to buy an SKS 762, which the first officer on the scene described as a “military style carbine.”

The officer said Desmond had driven his vehicle onto a rough road nearby his wife’s residence and approached the home on foot. “He took steps to conceal he was actually going there,” Rose-Berthiaume said.

He said that in his opinion the killings constituted first-degree murder.

“The searches of the (weapons) websites, the purchasing of the gun, the placement of the vehicle, the stabbing of (Shanna’s car) tires … speaks to me of deliberate planning and deliberation leading up to the event itself,” he testified.

Gilles Marchand, an RCMP digital forensics expert, testified later that cell phone analysis indicated Desmond had browsed multiple websites for weapons information.

The inquiry also heard of text messages that Desmond sent to his wife on New Year’s Day, asking if he could return and apologizing for previous arguments.

“I’m sorry I put my hands on you, I would never hit you,” one text said.

But Rose-Berthiaume testified that when Desmond set off to his wife’s home on Jan. 3, he had changed into a full camouflage outfit.

The officer said it’s possible Desmond hadn’t expected to find his daughter Aaliyah and mother Brenda at home, citing a phone call the veteran made to check if his daughter was at school.

The officer also testified that Brenda, Lionel’s 52-year-old mother, called her brother George Desmond at about 6 p.m. and told him, “You have got to get down here right away, the boy just shot his wife.”

The officer said George Desmond told him by the time he had arrived approximately 10 minutes later, all four deaths had already occurred.

Rose-Berthiaume testified Lionel Desmond’s lifeless body was found on the floor of the home, with a rifle lying across his outstretched arm and a single bullet wound.

The body of Desmond’s mother Brenda had one bullet wound, as did the body of his 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah. Shanna had three wounds, the officer testified.

The inquiry continues Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 29, 2020.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

Desmond fatality inquiry

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(File photo by Advocate staff)
Zero tax increase approved by Red Deer city council for 2021 and 2022

City council passed operating budgets for the next two years on Thursday

Red Deer city council approved a $39.6 million police budget for 2021, up for inflationary reasons from $37.9 million in 2020. (Black Press file photo).
Red Deer city council retains police funding, while also launching a crisis team

De-funding police is not a conversation in this municipality

Alberta reported an additional 1,854 cases of COVID-19 Thursday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories)
Red Deer has 289 active cases of COVID-19

Province now has 17,743 active cases

The Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre in Red Deer has new owners. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Cambridge Hotel in Red Deer has new ownership group

‘They’re making an investment in this iconic hotel for the future,’ says general manager Gil Vallee

The new Gasoline Alley Farmers Market officially opened on Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Gasoline Alley brewery a collaboration between brewers and farmers

Red Deer County’s newest brewery has been built from the ground up… Continue reading

Dan Cochrane, senior pastor at CrossRoads Church. Contributed photo
CrossRoads Church closes its doors for two weeks after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

CrossRoads Church made the decision to cancel in-house services for two weeks… Continue reading

Russell Knox takes 1st-round lead in Mayakoba Golf Classic

Russell Knox takes 1st-round lead in Mayakoba Golf Classic

Charley Hull takes LPGA Tour lead in chilly North Texas

Charley Hull takes LPGA Tour lead in chilly North Texas

Bayern's Alphonso Davies, right, challenges PSG's Thilo Kehrer, left, during the Champions League final soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon, Portugal, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Miguel A. Lopes/Pool via AP
Alphonso Davies’ remarkable year continues with Canadian Player of the Year award

Alphonso Davies’ remarkable year continues with Canadian Player of the Year award

Japan's national wheelchair basketball team warm up on the court during a grand opening ceremony of the Ariake Arena, a venue for wheelchair basketball during the 2020 Paralympic Games, in Tokyo, Feb. 2, 2020. Ottawa has been named host city for the 2026 world men's and women's wheelchair basketball championships. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jae C. Hong
Ottawa to host 2026 world wheelchair basketball championships

Ottawa to host 2026 world wheelchair basketball championships

Mikael Kingsbury, of Canada, trains during the FIS Freestyle World Cup skiing competition Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, in Park City, Utah. Kingsbury will miss moguls races for the first time in his World Cup career after suffering a back injury in training on Sunday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jeff Swinger
Canadian moguls king Mikael Kingsbury sidelined with back injury

Canadian moguls king Mikael Kingsbury sidelined with back injury

Curlers sweep a rock during in Brandon, Man., on March 5, 2019. Add two more competitions to the Calgary curling "bubble" that's slated to hold several events later this season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Two Grand Slam events added to curling bubble at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary

Two Grand Slam events added to curling bubble at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary

Arlen Dumas, grand chief of the Manitoba Assembly of Chiefs, speaks during an Assembly of First Nations annual general meeting in Regina on Thursday, July 27, 2017. As a second wave of COVID-19 washes over the First Nations population with disproportionate and deadly impacts, leaders and health professionals are facing an extra challenge. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor
Gaining trust: History of Indigenous experiments poses challenge in COVID health

Gaining trust: History of Indigenous experiments poses challenge in COVID health

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance responds to a question during a news conference Friday, June 26, 2020 in Ottawa. Vance is ordering his troops to be ready to pick up COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. and Europe on short notice, and prepare to help distribute the doses while responding to floods and other emergencies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Feds, provinces to stage distribution dry run as approval of first vaccine imminent

Feds, provinces to stage distribution dry run as approval of first vaccine imminent

Most Read