Suspect in Tatamagouche homicide remains in hospital as court process begins

Ernie (Junior) Ross Duggan, 49, has been in hospital since he was shot by police early Monday morning at a cemetery several hours after Susie Butlin's body was discovered.

Ernie (Junior) Ross Duggan, 49, accused of 1st-degree murder in death of Susie Butlin, 58

Susie Butlin was found dead in a home on Clarks Road in Bayhead, Colchester County. (

The man charged with first-degree murder in the death of 58-year-old Susie Butlin at a home near Tatamagouche, N.S., remained in a hospital bed Thursday as his case was brought before Nova Scotia provincial court in Truro.

Ernie (Junior) Ross Duggan, 49, has been in hospital since he was shot by police early Monday morning at a cemetery several hours after Butlin's body was discovered in a home on Clarks Road in Bayhead.

Duggan is also charged with attempted murder for allegedly firing at police.

Crown prosecutor Alison Brown told court she expects Duggan to be released from hospital soon. He will then be transferred to jail. If he wants bail, Duggan will have to appear before a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge.

Brown wouldn't say whether the Crown will oppose Duggan's release.

"We're at the very early stages. We have to review what evidence we have thus far," she said. "Look at any proposed plan of release, so I can't comment on that at this time."

Ernie (Junior) Ross Duggan, 49, has been charged with first-degree murder. (Facebook)

Duggan's lawyer, Pat Atherton, appeared via videolink for Thursday's brief court appearance. The Halifax-based defence lawyer said he has yet to receive instructions from his client and asked for the matter to be postponed. The case will return to provincial court on Oct. 3.

Butlin and Duggan were neighbours. She was in the process of obtaining a peace bond against him when she was killed, and had alleged he had sexually assaulted her and vandalized her swimming pool.

"I think we need peace bonds but peace bonds are not a protection unless somebody is going to abide by them and respect them," Lucille Harper, executive director of the Antigonish Women's Resource Centre, said in an interview.

"So in situations where there may be mental health issues or there are other situations that interfere with somebody's ability to be thinking clearly, often they do not respect the law and the peace bond's not useful."

Junior Duggan was shot by RCMP at Lockerbie Memorial Cemetery on Highway 6 in Tatamagouche. (Pierre-Alex Bolduc/Radio-Canada)

Harper said once Butlin's case has been dealt with by the courts, there needs to be a conversation about the level of services available to women in rural areas who feel threatened and are looking for protection.

"Certainly, I don't think anyone will argue that we need to make some improvements in our justice system and particularly in the ability to respond in a timely manner to protect and to address issues of violence."

Harper said every time there's a case like Butlin's, it sends ripples through a community. Regardless of the outcome of the court case, the matter needs to be discussed further, she said.

"Whether he's found guilty or not, there's a woman who's dead. And so that broader conversation absolutely needs to happen."