STONY PLAIN — An Alberta judge has agreed that an American woman who pleaded guilty to helping her mother kill herself should not have to spend any more time behind bars.
Judge Charles Gardener sentenced Linda Jean McNall to eight months of time already served on the rare charge of aiding suicide in the death of her 79-year-old mother, Shirley Vann. That was the recommendation made by both the Crown and the defence.
Court heard details about a suicide pact McNall made with Vann. Both had health problems and had cared for each other for decades.
Last spring, after Vann’s health deteriorated, they sold their belongings, left behind mounting medical bills and drove from Sierra Vista, Ariz., to Canada’s Rocky Mountains.
They pitched a tent near Hinton, 300 kilometres west of Edmonton, injected themselves and their two pet dogs with insulin, swallowed some sleeping pills and opened a propane tank.
Vann and the animals died, but McNall, 53, survived.
McNall, who had worked as a nurse, pleaded guilty to the crime last month. The sentence means McNall, who still suffers from depression and was being treated at Alberta Hospital, will be deported to Arizona.
McNall’s lawyer, Laura Stevens, said her client will spend the night in jail in Edmonton and will be flown back to Phoenix on Wednesday. There, Stevens said, her client is scheduled to be evaluated by a case worker and a crisis management team.
Stevens said the Canadian government had requested a hospital-to-hospital transfer, but that was rejected by U.S. authorities over fears McNall wouldn’t be able to pay for care.
Stevens called it a destabilizing time for her client and said it’s likely that McNall could end up in a homeless shelter.
Gardener said he hopes McNall will continue to get care. The judge noted the progress McNall had been making recently at Alberta Hospital after two more suicide attempts while there.
“I take some comfort that your condition is improving,” he told McNall, who was seated in the prisoner’s box. “I hope you will receive some ongoing treatment and comfort … and that you eventually find worth and value in your life.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that,” McNall responded.