HINTON — A U.S. woman charged with aiding the suicide of her mother in an Alberta mountain town has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment.
The defence lawyer for Linda Jean McNall has told court there are concerns her client may also be suicidal. Marissa Tordoff said it’s possible the 53-year-old could have a mental disorder and be found not criminally responsible for the alleged crime.
“The nature of the offence is one that would trigger inquiry into her mental health,” Tordoff said Wednesday in Hinton provincial court.
McNall, in custody at the Edmonton Remand Centre, appeared briefly in court with her lawyer via video. A stocky woman with short hair and a flushed face, the accused stood without saying a word.
Her mother, Shirley Vann, was found dead last month inside a vehicle parked in front of the hospital in Hinton, about 300 kilometres west of Edmonton.
McNall was admitted to hospital with injuries that weren’t life-threatening and charged by RCMP four days later.
Crown prosecutor Bob Marr said outside court that investigators are still trying to piece together what happened. There’s some indication Vann, who was in her 70s, was poisoned by carbon monoxide, but autopsy results are not complete, he said.
Marr believes the mother and daughter had been on holiday in Canada from Arizona or Idaho for about three weeks to a month before Vann died.
“Apparently, they came up here to take in the countryside.”
He said Mounties were initially so concerned for McNall’s well-being that they requested a publication ban to prevent news media from identifying her or her mother. Court documents show officers feared publicity in the case would “further exacerbate McNall’s suicidal resolve.”
Both Crown and defence lawyers agreed Wednesday there was no reason to keep the ban in place.
“I know the police were very, very concerned initially of the well-being of the person that’s accused,” Marr said. “And they basically took all the steps they could to try and protect her until this thing got rolling.”
A judge ordered that McNall be assessed by doctors over the next 30 days at Alberta Hospital in Edmonton. She is to appear in court again July 3.