British Columbia

Court hears B.C. actor killed mother to spare her from seeing the violence he intended to commit

The B.C. actor who appeared in TV shows Riverdale and Supernatural is being sentenced for the second-degree murder of his mother Barbara Waite.

Actor Ryan Grantham had pleaded guilty to the 2020 2nd-degree murder of his mother Barbara Waite

Ryan Grantham pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on March 9. (Filmifeed)

The sentencing hearing for Ryan Grantham continued Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court with submissions from the Crown about the young actor's mental state and behaviour before and after he killed his 64-year-old mother in their Squamish townhouse.

Grantham, 24, shot Barbara Waite in the back of the head as she played piano on March 31, 2020. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in March after initially being charged with first-degree murder.

On Monday, the court heard how Grantham had rehearsed the killing and even taken videos which were shown in court, including a four-minute segment captured in the hours after the killing in which he confesses to the murder and shows his mother's dead body. 

The next day he packed his car with three guns, ammunition, 12 Molotov cocktails, camping supplies and a map with directions to Rideau Cottage in Ottawa and started driving east with the notion of killing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Referencing two psychiatric reports, Crown prosecutor Michaela Donnelly said there was consensus Grantham was going through an intense period of clinical depression in the months leading up to the murder while maintaining an outward appearance of being well functioning.

He also was experiencing urges to commit violence and kill himself, along with escalating feelings of self-hatred and guilt over his mother, potentially learning he had stopped attending classes at Simon Fraser University. Both reports said he had a cannabis use disorder.

The reports say Grantham decided to kill his mother to spare her from seeing the violence he intended to commit.

Donnelly said while that may seem altruistic in motive, murdering Waite was a profoundly selfish act. 

"Mr. Grantham was seeking to save his mother from something he was going to do ... That is something different than altruism," said Donnelly. 

'Heartbreaking breach of trust'

In presenting aggravating circumstances, Donnelly submitted that, in killing Waite, Grantham committed a "heartbreaking breach of trust."

"Barbara Waite loved her son very much, was an excellent parent and in her mind had no reason to fear him," said Donnelly. 

Donnelly argued that the use of a gun requires significant denunciation in sentencing, noting that Grantham was an experienced gun user and former gun club member. She highlighted that in the months leading up to the homicide, he bought a new gun even though he was aware of his struggles with urges to commit violence and killings. 

Donnelly said the circumstances of the case were closer to first-degree murder than manslaughter because, on the day of the murder, he had many chances to reconsider as he loaded and unloaded his .22 calibre rifle and then sat on the stairs of the townhouse for almost 15 minutes, deciding what to do.

Grantham left Squamish the day after the murder with his mother's body still where it had fallen, intending to drive 50 hours to Ottawa to kill Justin Trudeau. Before he left, he tested a Molotov cocktail in a remote area. 

He drove as far as Hope before turning around with thoughts he would instead commit an act of mass violence at SFU or other locations. That night he turned himself in to Vancouver police. 

Grantham has acted in film and television since he was nine years old. His credits include B.C.-filmed TV series, including Riverdale, Supernatural and iZombie, and the films Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

Second-degree murder comes with an automatic life sentence. The Crown is asking for 17 to 18 years of parole ineligibility. 

The hearing is expected to wrap up Wednesday after submissions from the defence.