A veteran who killed the family himself would have been criminally responsible, the investigation said

A former Canadian soldier who fatally shot three members of his family and then himself was aware of what he was doing and would have been considered criminally responsible for his actions if he had survived, a forensic psychiatrist testified Tuesday at a death in Nova Scotia.

Scott Theriault performed a psychological autopsy on Lionel Desmond to investigate the death of the Desmond family.

He found that the 33-year-old Afghanistan veteran’s chronic post-traumatic stress disorder did not prevent him from knowing that his actions on January 3, 2017 were both morally wrong and would have been fatal.

That day, Desmond fatally shot his wife, Shanna, their 10-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, and his mother, Brenda, inside a home in Upper Big Tracadie, NS, before turning the gun on himself.

Desmond had been released less than five months earlier from a Montreal veterans’ psychiatric hospitalization program. His treatment team at Ste. Anne’s Hospital has testified that he made only minor improvements in stabilizing some of the symptoms of his complex post-traumatic stress disorder, including his ability to regulate anger.

Theriault is an expert witness at the study in Port Hawkesbury, NS, who looks at how to prevent future deaths like the Desmond family.

Shanna Desmond and her daughter, Aaliyah. (Facebook)

Diagnosed in 2011

Some of the key questions that the study has sought to answer include whether Shanna, Aaliyah, and Brenda Desmond had access to appropriate domestic violence intervention.

The study has also heard from many witnesses over 20 months of intermittent hearings about the difficulties Lionel Desmond had in accessing care at the end of his life.

Theriault agreed with psychiatrist Ian Slayter’s statement that the former soldier’s condition had further worsened after his discharge from Ste. Annes Hospital. Slayter saw Desmond after appearing in an emergency room in Antigonish, NS, in October 2016.

Desmond was first diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2011, four years after returning from a seven-month trip to Afghanistan.

Despite treatment, he never got to a point where he was able to remain in the military. In 2015, he was discharged as a doctor.

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