The sentencing for a teenager who shot and killed four people and injured seven others at a home and a high school in northern Saskatchewan has been delayed after a new report led two defence witnesses to conclude the teen has fetal alcohol syndrome.
The conclusions are based on the findings of what is known as a Gladue report, which examines an Indigenous offender’s background for the judge to use when determining a sentence. It can include information about abuse, developmental or health issues, such as fetal alcohol syndrome, or substance use.
FULL COVERAGE: La Loche school shooting
In this case, defence lawyer Aaron Fox said the report “makes reference to some of the drinking history of (the teen’s) biological mom.”
As a result, Fox said psychiatrist Dr. Mansfield Mela and neuropsychologist Dr. Monty Nelson “feel they can confirm the diagnosis” of fetal alcohol syndrome.
Mela testified during part of the hearing in June that the teen has symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, an intellectual disability, major depressive disorder and displays signs of fetal alcohol syndrome.
However, at that time he could not confirm fetal alcohol syndrome because he said he didn’t know enough about the teen’s family history.
The Crown now wants to question Mela and Nelson again about their confirmation of the diagnosis.
Judge Janet McIvor, who is presiding over the case in Meadow Lake, Sask., granted the Crown’s request to delay the hearing until Sept. 1, but she also said “this needs to keep moving” forward.
“Perhaps it’s the nature of these kind of matters, but there seems to be issues arising at the last minute,” said McIvor.
It’s not clear whether final arguments in the sentencing, which were scheduled for Friday, will go ahead next week.
The teen – who cannot be named because he was just shy of his 18th birthday when the shootings occurred – pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder in the January 2016 shooting in La Loche.
Some victims have already told court that the teen should be sentenced as an adult because of the severity of his crimes.
“A lot of people, I think, want to move this process forward and move onto their healing journey,” La Loche Mayor Robert St. Pierre said outside the courthouse Friday.
“So delaying it again on the defence, just adds to that anxiety again. When are we going to go through this? What’s the end result here? Is he going to be sentenced as a youth? Is he going to be sentenced as an adult? A lot of people want some closure, so it just prolongs that process.”
The hearing is to determine whether the teen is sentenced as an adult or a youth. He could get six years of custody and four years probation if sentenced as a youth but faces a life sentence as an adult.
Court previously heard that the teen first killed Dayne Fontaine, 17, and then his brother Drayden, who was 13. Dayne pleaded for his life before he was shot 11 times, including twice in the head. Drayden was shot twice.
The teen then drove to the high school, where surveillance footage captured his frightening walk through the halls, his shotgun raised, as students and staff ran in fear.
When police arrived, the shooter ran into a women’s washroom where he put his weapon down and gave himself up.
The teen said he didn’t know what he was thinking when he pulled the trigger.
Nelson testified for the defence that the teen had an IQ of 68, which is considered well below average. A child psychiatrist who testified for the Crown said the teen did not come across as being clearly developmentally delayed or slow.
McIvor has already said she will deliver her sentence at a later date and indicated that may happen in La Loche.
St. Pierre said there are “some reservations” in the community about that.
“But other community members have said they’d rather have it in the community, so it’s still a toss up,” he said. “I’m still not sure where that’s going to lead and still need to have more consultation.”