|The Ottawa Citizen|
An 18-year-old who shot his mother in the head while she slept pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and a weapons charge yesterday.
Although evidence to support the convictions was entered in court, the question of why he killed his mother remains murky.
The man cannot be named because he was 17 at the time of the July 2003 killing of his 43-year-old mother; his case falls under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which prohibits identification of the accused.
Under the act, first-degree murder convictions carry an automatic sentence of six years in custody, followed by four years of supervision in the community.
The youth, who has no previous criminal record, will be sentenced at the end of the month when defence and Crown lawyers are expected
to give recommendations to Ontario Court Justice Lise Maisonneuve on how much extra time the man should serve for the weapons charge.
As part of a plea bargain, assistant Crown attorney David Elhadad has not applied to have the man sentenced as an adult.
As several relatives of the victim and the accused listened to proceedings, Mr. Elhadad presented the case.
The youth and his mother lived in an Overbrook home. His father had died five years earlier, and his older brother had moved to Montreal.
Several relatives said the mother and son had been at odds because he dropped out of school and had lost a job. The day of the killing, the mother had been at a family cottage where she discussed the difficulties. Relatives suggested she take away his car privileges until he started turning his life around and contributing to the household.
His grandmother told police she'd phoned the house after her daughter returned home. The victim had confronted her son about his life and forbade him from using the car. The teenager was angry, the grandmother said.
Police were first alerted that something had happened when the youth phoned 911. In his first statements to police, the youth said his mother returned home, nothing much happened, they both went to their bedrooms and at about midnight he heard a shot.
Frightened, he said, he climbed out his bedroom window, took the car and almost immediately flagged down a passing military police officer who told him to phone 911.
When Ottawa police came, he told them the only two people he could think of who would kill his mother were his uncle and an abusive ex-boyfriend of hers.
He was taken to the police station as a witness while police started their investigation, including surveillance on the ex-boyfriend. But by 7:30 p.m. the next day, the evidence pointed to the son shooting his mother as she slept.
After being informed he was a suspect, in a videotaped interview with Sgt. Greg Brown, the youth initially held to his story. But during the questioning, Sgt. Brown pointed out several inconsistencies in the teen's story.
"What you're saying just doesn't make any sense," the officer told the youth. "I think you killed your mother."
"I had no reason to shoot my mother," the youth replied.
But with the evidence mounting and the officer asking the youth what he should tell the youth's brother and relatives about what happened, the youth broke down. Sgt. Brown left the room to give the young man a chance to compose himself. When the officer returned, the youth confessed.
He said his mother was always struggling financially and had said a number of times that she didn't see the point of trying any more. That night, while in his room as his mother slept, he said "I thought maybe she would be better if she was gone."
He said he loaded a .22-calibre rifle kept in the house, turned on the light outside his mother's bedroom door and shot her in the back of the head as he stood in the doorway.
"You thought it would be better for her because of her problems?" the officer asked.
"Yes," the youth replied.
"Was she asleep?"
"So she didn't feel any pain."
"When did you decide this would be a better thing?"
"It just came to me."
"Where did you shoot your mother?"
"In the head. I just said if I shoot her there, she really won't feel anything because her brain won't record what happened."
The youth then drove her car to Orleans, on the way tossing a package of bullets out of the car before throwing the gun into bushes off Dunning Road. He later led police to both items.
Mr. Elhadad entered as evidence a copy of the mother's will, which he said could be a possible motive for the killing. The will listed the youth and his brother as beneficiaries of his mother's estate, after all expenses were paid.
In a police statement, a relative of the accused also said the youth once made a statement that is chilling in retrospect.
"He told the family member that if he took somebody out, he would shoot them in the back of the head behind the left ear, which was, unfortunately, exactly how she died," Mr. Elhadad said.