Suspect in crossbow-related killings was considered low risk to reoffend: documents

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WATCH ABOVE: Victims identified in east-end Toronto crossbow-related killings – Aug 30, 2016

TORONTO — A man accused of strangling his mother and killing two of his brothers using a crossbow bolt and arrowhead had been treated for depression while serving a sentence for multiple bank robberies, but was considered a low risk to reoffend, according to parole documents obtained by The Canadian Press.

Brett Ryan, 35, is facing three charges of first-degree murder in the deaths of Susan Ryan, 66, and his brothers Chris, 42, and Alexander, 29.

Police said another man — who neighbours said was also Ryan’s brother — was injured in the bloody attack at the family’s home in the city’s east end Thursday afternoon.

READ MORE: Victims of crossbow-related attack in Toronto were mom, 2 brothers of suspect Brett Ryan

Ryan’s social media profiles show a man happily engaged to a physiotherapist and due to get married on Sept. 16. But documents from the Parole Board of Canada related to Ryan’s 2009 conviction shed some light on his past emotional and financial struggles.

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In 2008, Ryan was charged with a total of 29 counts of robbery, intent to commit a crime while disguised, and a weapons offence.

He pleaded guilty in 2009 to eight counts each of robbery and intent to commit an indictable offence while disguised. The remaining counts were withdrawn. He was sentenced to 45 months in prison – less seven months for pre-trial custody. The court also imposed a lifetime weapons ban.

Ryan had a history of depression, but his mental health improved after receiving counselling while incarcerated, according to a Parole Board of Canada decision that granted Ryan day parole in April 2010.

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“You report being depressed at the time as a result of a failed intimate relationship, poor results in university and substantial debts incurred as a result of leading a lifestyle in support of your intimate relationship,” the documents said.

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“You told the board that you had invested everything in your two previous relationships and were let down on both occasions. You fell into a depression that you failed to recognize and instead of seeking help you started to rob banks to pay your debt and maintain your lifestyle.”

The documents suggest Ryan had fallen out of contact with his family at some point.

“You told the boards that for the first time in several years you are now actually communicating with close members of your family and that you have spent significant time re-establishing these relationships since your incarceration,” the report states, adding that Ryan was a strong candidate for graduated release.

READ MORE: Woman strangled, 2 men stabbed with crossbow bolt, arrow in Toronto attack: police

Ryan had begun discussing his depression openly with his family, an important facet of his rehabilitation, the board noted.

“The report suggests that by doing so you should be able to recognize and manage any subsequent episodes of depression,” the documents said.

Three family members – his mother, his father and one of his brothers – came to one of his parole board hearings, the documents show.

A psychiatrist noted Ryan was at risk “to develop a more serious form of depression as this illness does run in your family.” The report also notes that Ryan was able to treat his depression with counselling alone and didn’t require medication.

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A psychiatric report stated Ryan didn’t have any history of aggression, violence or criminal activity prior to robbing banks.

During those robberies, according to the parole board, Ryan wore an elaborate disguise where he pretended to be an injured man replete with facial bandages and a fake limp, while carrying “business-like papers.” He threatened bank tellers with a note, told them he had a gun and demanded usually $2,000 or $3,000, according to the documents.

A gun was never found and Ryan said he never had one.

He admitted “some excitement in the early robberies but towards the end of the robbery spree you became more remorseful and apprehensive.”

READ MORE: Man, 35, charged with first-degree murder after deadly crossbow attack in Toronto

Ryan took a total of $28,000 from the banks, although little was recovered, according to the parole board.

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In April 2010, the Parole Board of Canada granted Ryan day parole, saying he was a low risk to reoffend and expressed remorse to the victims of his crimes. The board imposed a condition for Ryan to attend psychological counselling “to address emotional and relationship issues, both family and intimate….”

In November 2010 Ryan had another hearing, this time for full parole.

During the six months he had been out on day parole, the documents said, he worked part time at a restaurant and enrolled in part-time university courses. Ryan told the board he wanted to pursue a degree in biophysics.

READ MORE: Fatal crossbow incident in east-end Toronto linked to suspicious package downtown: police

He also declared bankruptcy to alleviate the stress associated with his outstanding debt, the documents said.

The documents show Ryan received seven counselling sessions with a psychologist during that time.

“The psychologist reported that you do not need psychological therapy or supportive counselling,” according to parole documents, but he had the option to return to therapy if necessary.

The Parole Board of Canada noted he had complied with all conditions while on day parole and remained a low risk for reoffending and granted Ryan full parole on Nov. 24, 2010.

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Ryan made his first court appearance last week. His next court hearing is scheduled for Friday.

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