New Brunswick

Soldiers testify feeling paranoid, disoriented and 'spaced out' after eating cupcakes

Bombardier Chelsea Cogswell's court martial got underway on Wednesday at Base Gagetown. She's charged with administering a noxious substance to eight soldiers without their consent in July 2018 during a live-fire training exercise.

Chelsea Cogswell accused of feeding cannabis-laced cupcakes to comrades

Bombardier Chelsea Cogswell's court martial began on Wednesday. She is alleged to have fed marijuana-laced cupcakes to gunners taking part in a live-fire training exercise in July 2018. (Submitted)

Bombardier Connor Chubry said he started to feel "spaced out" within about 45 minutes of eating a cupcake baked by Bombardier Chelsea Cogswell during a live-fire training exercise in July 2018 at 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown in New Brunwsick.

At first, he thought he was dehydrated, but no amount of water helped. 

He said he became incoherent, wandered around looking at the trees while on sentry duty, and was unable to focus on his duties. 

Chubry said he felt high but was doubtful because he was on a military training exercise. 

He said it wasn't until a few soldiers got together and began comparing symptoms that he believed that's what happened. 

On the first day of the court martial of Cogswell, three soldiers testified she was in charge of the canteen and had given out free cupcakes just before lunch on July 21, 2018. All three described feeling "high" after eating a cupcake. 

I started feeling a little weird, like spacey. - Dylan Eoll

Cogswell faces eight charges of administering a noxious substance to eight soldiers without their consent. She is also charged with behaving in a disgraceful manner and committing an act to the prejudice of good order and discipline.

In her opening remarks, prosecutor Maj. Élisabeth Baby-Cormier said Cogswell baked the cannabis-laced cupcakes at her home the day before. 

She said a number of those who ate the cupcakes began experiencing symptoms of fatigue, drunkenness, disorientation and confusion — all while on a live-fire training exercise. 

Baby-Cormier said Cogswell "recklessly introduced risk in an already inherently risky activity." 

She said one of the soldiers scheduled to testify "will tell you that she made a conscious decision in her life never to try drugs. She will tell you that on July 21, 2018, that decision was taken away from her." 

She said another soldier will testify that he had been in recovery for several years following a drug addiction. 

A sniper taking part in a competition among peers at 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, the same year as Bombardier Chelsea Cogswell's alleged incident. (Kevin Bissett/Canadian Press)

Bombardier Dylan Eoll testified that Cogswell — who he initially referred to by her maiden name, Fraser — offered him a cupcake when he went to buy some items from the canteen. 

He said she told him she made the cupcakes herself and said they were free. He described them as chocolate cupcakes, with chocolate frosting and a jelly bean on top. 

Within an hour, he said he "started feeling a little weird, like spacey."

It was a hot day, so he thought he was dehydrated. But no amount of water helped. 

"Small tasks were becoming harder and harder to do. I felt sluggish. I felt groggy … I just wasn't fully there."

He said he kept forgetting things, was paranoid and not completely coherent, as if he had just woken up. He said another soldier was "making mistakes I've never seen her make before."  

Several soldiers started to notice similar symptoms and they "all came to the consensus" that they were high, said Eoll. They soon zeroed in on the cupcakes, since it was the only thing they had all consumed. 

He said the training exercise was halted and they were all sent to a tent to recover. The military police started an investigation that day, said Eoll. 

Baby-Cormier said 16 witnesses are expected to testify during the court martial. Two weeks have been set aside.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mia Urquhart is a CBC reporter based in Saint John. She can be reached at mia.urquhart@cbc.ca.

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