Drunk driver who killed mother, son is fit for trial on another charge

Paula McCooey, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Friday, March 17, 2006

man who killed a woman and her 12-year-old son while driving drunk in the mid-1990s, and then recently drove again while impaired, has been found fit to stand trial this month.

Matthew Brownlee was arrested Oct. 11 after police followed a black GMC pickup truck down Elgin Street at 4 a.m. Since Nov. 10, the 33-year-old has been held in the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital, where he has undergone several examinations to determine whether he could stand trial. A person is found unfit to stand trial if they are unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings, and/or communicate with counsel.

Last month, Dr. Linda Grasswick found Mr. Brownlee not fit to stand trial and ordered another 30-day assessment. She was concerned about his delusions that country music star Shania Twain was controlling the court proceedings.

However, Dr. Grasswick subsequently told the court that Mr. Brownlee has been taking medication to treat his psychotic mood disorder.

Dr. Grasswick said the disorder stems from a head injury Mr. Brownlee sustained in the head-on car crash on Greenbank Road in 1996 that killed Linda LeBreton-Holmes and her 12-year-old son, Brian. Mr. Brownlee was convicted, sentenced to several years in prison and banned from driving for life.

In court yesterday, Crown prosecutor Dallas Mack asked Dr. Grasswick to describe Mr. Brownlee's delusions.

"When I examined Mr. Brownlee prior to Feb. 16, he was able to describe the charges and had an understanding of courtroom etiquette," said Dr. Grasswick.

"However, I was concerned with his delusions, because he believed Shania Twain and other figures would have influence over the court and give submissions.

"Now, a month later, and over the course of the month, Mr. Brownlee has been compliant with his medication and there has been a softening of the delusions."

Another psychiatrist shares that assessment of Mr. Brownlee. Hamilton psychiatrist Dr. Gary Chaimowitz met with Mr. Brownlee on Wednesday and reviewed Dr. Grasswick's findings. He, too, found Mr. Brownlee fit to stand trial.

Mr. Brownlee was charged in the fall with impaired operation of a motor vehicle, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, failure to comply with probation conditions and driving while disqualified.

He is scheduled to appear in court on March 27.

 The Ottawa Citizen 2006