Duo accused in Halifax mass murder plot face more charges, no bail
WATCH ABOVE: Two suspects linked to a Halifax murder plot appeared in court Tuesday. Marieke Walsh reports.
HALIFAX – Two people accused of plotting to open fire in a Halifax mall on Valentine’s Day appeared in court Tuesday for the first time on charges of conspiracy to commit murder.
The charges against Lindsay Kanittha Souvannarath, 23, of Geneva, Ill., and Randall Steven Shepherd, 20, of Halifax, were announced by the RCMP on Saturday, the same day police allege the Valentine’s Day attack on the Halifax Shopping Centre was planned.
Three other charges were also announced Tuesday for the co-accused. The charges now include conspiracy to possess weapons, conspiracy to commit arson and unlawfully conveying a threat online to cause bodily harm or death to members of the public.
Shepherd arrived at the Halifax courthouse and was quickly ushered in. He did not show much expression on his face.
Souvannarath had a small smile on her face as she stepped from the sheriff’s van to the courthouse and turned towards the media as she made her way there.
Shepherd and Souvannarath did not apply for bail and will return to court on March 6 for a bail hearing.
Nova Scotia’s Special Prosecutions Unit is leading the case. Crown Prosecutor Shauna MacDonald said the maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit murder is life in prison.
MacDonald said she’s never come across an alleged plot like the one Souvannarath and Shepherd are accused of. “I would say very unusual for here, I certainly haven’t encountered anything like it,” she said.
“I don’t think we’d approach it any differently than we would any other case in terms of the mechanism that we have to prosecute.”
Court documents state the offences occurred between Jan. 6 and Feb. 14. The pair was arrested Feb. 13 at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport.
A third suspect, 19-year-old James Gamble, was found dead by police Friday morning at a home in Timberlea, N.S. The province’s Serious Incident Response Team, an independent agency that investigates serious incidents involving officers, is looking into the circumstances of his death.
A social networking website believed to be linked to Gamble features pictures of weapons, Nazi symbols, sexual violence, and images relating to the Columbine school shooting. Other pictures on the social media site show Gamble posing with a rifle and a knife.
On Feb. 5, an image circulated on another account featuring what is believed to be Gamble’s online username it included the phrase: “Valentine’s Day it’s going down.”
Meanwhile, police in Geneva, Ill., say they will be talking to the RCMP and Halifax police on Tuesday about items seized during a search of Souvannarath’s home on Friday.
Julie Nash, commander of patrol operations, said she expects investigators to discuss the nature of items collected and whether any of them will be shipped to police in Nova Scotia.
“We’re not noting what those items are at this time,” she said in an interview. “We’ll be reaching out to those police departments in Canada to determine the evidentiary value of the items.”
Nash confirmed that the police department has had no dealings with Souvannarath prior to last week.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the private college she attended in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, declined to speak about the young woman.
However, Rod Pritchard confirmed in an email that Souvannarath enrolled at Coe College in 2010 and graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing.
“We at Coe are not going to grant any interviews regarding Ms. Souvannarath,” he said in the email.
Prof. Charles Aukema confirmed that the young woman was one of his students, but he declined to say anything about her.
It appears Souvannarath wrote for the English Department’s Coe Review, an online literary publication that included a story attributed to her called “My Pet Skeleton.”
In the story, posted on July 10, 2013, the author describes owning a pet skeleton that scares people in department stores, restaurants and her grandmother’s house.
“Everyone else’s skeletons are locked up in closets,” the story says as it concludes. “Most people think they should stay there. Maybe you do, too. But I wouldn’t say anything bad about skeletons. There’s one inside you.”
A man who went to rock shows with Shepherd and Gamble said they never mentioned guns, or the Columbine school shooting.
“They both came across as exactly what I would have expected for kids that I was hanging out with at a metal show, they were fun, they laughed at my jokes,” said Vincent Appleton. “I’ve come to the understanding that I probably didn’t know them very well.”
Appleton said he met the two young men about six months ago at a live metal show. He described Gamble as more of an introvert, and said Shepherd was the extrovert of the two.
Appleton said, he last saw the two at an all-age music show in late January.
– With files from The Canadian Press.
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