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Not-criminally responsible hearing begins in Halifax homicide case

Halifax man who tried to bury his mother in his backyard returns to court

4 min read
caption This home, on the 6300 block of Willow Street, is where Linda Lamontagne was killed in October 2019.
Stephen Wentzell

Editor's Note

Content warning: This story contains details of graphic violence that may be unsettling for some readers.

A 26-year old Halifax man accused of killing his mother and attempting to bury her in his backyard returned to court Wednesday for a not-criminally responsible (NCR) hearing.

Linda Lamontagne, 65, was found dead at a Willow Street residence on Oct. 22, 2019. Later that day, her son, Ryan Richard Lamontagne, was charged with second-degree murder and indignity to human remains.

The hearing, at the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in Halifax, is taking place to determine whether Lamontagne had the mental capacity to know he was committing a crime. He has been remanded at the East Coast Forensic Hospital since his arrest. Brad Sarson of Nova Scotia Legal Aid is representing Lamontagne in the case.

Justice Joshua Arnold presided over the NCR hearing, where experts in forensic psychiatry Dr. Joel Watts and Dr. Scott Theriault took the stand. 

Theriault, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Dalhousie University, works at the East Coast Forensic Hospital. There, he says he interviewed Lamontagne “six or seven times.” 

Crown attorney Mark Heerema questioned the experts about whether Lamontagne was capable of recognizing the gravity and consequences of his actions. He also asked if the accused’s cannabis use may have been a primary factor in inducing psychosis. 

Both doctors reached the conclusion that the accused was suffering from a severe episode of schizophrenia at the time of the killing. Lamontagne was admitted to hospital 10 months before the crime, when he was experiencing delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thinking. Despite receiving treatment, the symptoms persisted. 

Theriault said the relationship between the Lamontagnes was a positive one leading up to Linda’s homicide. He also noted that Lamontagne had been let go from a hotel cleaning job two days before the killing, after his employer noticed him acting erratically. 

No ‘plausible, rational explanation’: forensic psychiatrist

Watts told the Crown he believes Lamontagne was “unable to appreciate that he caused his mother’s death.”

“To me, there isn’t any plausible, rational explanation,” Watts told the court. He pointed to the accused’s erratic behaviour following the killing, noting Lamontagne walked to Dartmouth carrying a basketball before throwing it away and taking a drive from a stranger who he believed was Jesus. 

A police report described Linda Lamontagne as having her arms “significantly” broken, her scalp removed and a pendant lodged in her throat. 

Watts argued the accused was suffering from hallucinations and beliefs that his mother was a witch who was brainwashing him. He speculated the reason Lamontagne attempted to bury his mother because he believed she was a zombie and needed to bury her in order for her to come back to life.

‘I did something very bad’


The backyard where Ryan Lamontagne attempted to bury his mother Linda's body.
caption The backyard where Lamontagne allegedly attempted to bury his mother.
Stephen Wentzell

The morning after the homicide, the court heard that according to a police statement, a neighbour was alerted to Lamontagne digging a hole in his backyard when she heard her dog barking strangely.

She noticed what she thought was a body, before laughing it off as an elaborate Halloween prank. 

It’s not funny, Lamontagne told her. “I did something very bad.”

The neighbour called the police who arrested Lamontagne that afternoon. When asked if he wanted to speak with a lawyer, Lamontagne responded, “I don’t deserve one.”

A week after his arrest, Lamontagne was remanded to a 60-day mental health assessment and treatment at the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Dartmouth.

Lamontagne returned to court in February 2020, where he waived his right to a preliminary inquiry of the case, fast-tracking the process to trial.

Watts said Lamontagne’s schizophrenia was in remission in September 2020. He explained that full remission doesn’t mean someone no longer has schizophrenia. Instead, a patient in remission presents an absence of symptoms, like disorganized thinking or hallucinations. 

The NCR hearing resumes Friday, when Justice Arnold will begin the review of a 16-hour video from Lamontagne’s police interrogation. The hearing is scheduled to end on Monday, Feb. 1. 

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About the author

Stephen Wentzell

Stephen Wentzell is an ambitious and resilient investigative writer from Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has been a journalist for a third of his life....

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