An inquiry investigating why Lionel Desmond killed three family members and himself in 2017 heard testimony Thursday from his uncle, who said he saw no indication of impending violence when the former soldier stayed at his home the night before the killings.
Kenny Greencorn told the inquiry that Desmond was a hard worker and he never suspected any violence in the relationship between Desmond and his wife, Shanna.
“There was nothing talked about bad about each other,” he said under questioning by Adam Rodgers, the lawyer representing the Desmond estate.
Greencorn said Desmond was just a teenager when he first met him and worked with him on a Christmas tree lot.
He said Desmond always showed an interest in mechanics, and he assumed that’s what Desmond would pursue after leaving the military.
Desmond served as a combat soldier in Afghanistan in 2007 and was diagnosed with severe PTSD and major depression in 2011. He received treatment before and after he was medically discharged from the Canadian Armed Forces in 2015.
On Jan. 3, 2017, Desmond bought a rifle in Antigonish and later shot his 31-year-old wife, their 10-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, and his 52-year-old mother, Brenda, before turning the gun on himself in their home.
Greencorn told the provincial fatality inquiry that while Desmond had talked about hurting his back in a fall during training in the military, he never spoke of his time in Afghanistan or any issues resulting from that deployment.
Greencorn said he knew that Desmond consumed medical marijuana but didn’t explain why, and he didn’t ask. “If he had a puff of weed he was happy and funny. It kept him calm,” Greencorn testified. “He was just a great guy, with or without marijuana.”
He said Desmond arrived at his house on the afternoon of Jan. 2, 2017 and the two of them chatted and put some wood in a shed.
Desmond later went home but called around 8:30 p.m. asking if Greencorn could come to his house and retrieve a snowblower because it needed an oil change. Greencorn said when he arrived, Desmond said he had been in the shower and when he got out, his wife, mother and daughter were gone, and he didn’t know where.
He said Desmond followed him home to help unload the snowblower and decided to stay the night.
Greencorn said that evening, Desmond made some mention about a counsellor and divorce but didn’t elaborate and also made mention of being in the hospital the previous night.
“He seemed normal to me,” Greencorn said, however numerous times during his testimony, Greencorn admitted to having trouble remembering many of the details around that time. He said the comment about a counsellor and divorce may have been from another time or from someone else.
Greencorn said he left for work at about 5 a.m. the next morning and was shocked when he got a call from his wife and daughter to tell him about the shootings. “It blew me away. It can’t be true,” he said.
Thomas Macdonald, the lawyer for Shanna Desmond and the Borden family, then questioned Greencorn about a statement he gave to the RCMP on Jan. 5, 2017 in which he said Desmond told him he had a dream, months earlier, in which he cut off his wife’s head.
Greencorn said now he doesn’t recall that. “I don’t remember talking about it,” he said. He also said he never saw Desmond with a gun.
Allen Murray, the lead counsel for the inquiry, asked why Desmond would stay at Greencorn’s home, and if it might be because of tensions with Shanna.
“I think maybe just to get away,” Greencorn replied. “I never asked him what might be going on.”
The inquiry has now adjourned until the week of April 19 when witnesses from Veterans Affairs Canada are expected to testify.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2021.