New Brunswick

Families of 4 Fredericton shooting victims describe living with anxiety, depression, fear

Family members of the four people shot and killed by a Fredericton man in 2018 are still suffering from anxiety, depression and lingering fear.

Matthew Raymond was found not criminally responsible by a jury last month

Victims of the shooting in Fredericton, from left to right: constables Robb Costello, 45, and Sara Burns, 43, and civilians Donnie Robichaud, 42, and Bobbie Lee Wright, 32.

Sara Burns's 12-year-old son Anderson sat at a table, staring at a speck of dust as people brought food and condolences.

That morning, on Aug, 10, 2018, he had a typical start to the day. Then his father walked into his room in tears and told him his mother, a Fredericton police constable, had been shot and killed in the line of duty.

Anderson described feeling disbelief, then despair in a letter read by a Crown prosecutor on Thursday. It was among eight victim impact statements read at Matthew Raymond's disposition hearing in the Court of Queen's Bench.

"If you looked up the definition of a good person then the name Sara Burns would show up," Anderson wrote. "She was such a kind soul."

Raymond, 50, was found not criminally responsible by a jury last month after he shot and killed Fredericton residents Donnie Robichaud and Bobbie Lee Wright, and constables Sara Burns and Robb Costello when they responded to calls of shots fired.

At his trial in Fredericton, Raymond testified he believed he was shooting demons, not humans, to defend himself because he believed the end times had come.

Matthew Raymond was found not criminally responsible after shooting four Fredericton residents. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

A disposition hearing is held to decide what happens to a person found not criminally responsible, and to give family members a chance to describe how they were affected. It is not  a sentencing hearing.

The family members spoke of living with anxiety, depression and fear after their loved ones were killed. Many said they're struggling with the verdict of not criminally responsible, feeling justice was not served.

Burns's sister Emma Pirie read her statement in person, first facing the prisoner's box, where Raymond was sitting, then facing the judge when she was asked to address the court, not the accused.

"Sara and Robb were the kind of people who would have helped you get better," Pirie said. "But you still deserve to pay for what you did."

Raymond, clean-shaven and wearing a green sweatshirt and dark grey pants, looked down and occasionally cried and wiped tears away.

In her statement read by the Crown, Robb Costello's mother, Dolores Francis, said it's been difficult to grieve so publicly. She wrote he's her only son.

"It was me and Robb against the world," Francis wrote. "He's no longer here and there's no one that could replace him, he was my baby."

Melissa Robichaud, Donnie Robichaud's estranged wife, was in court but did not read her statement out loud. She listened, head on her hands, as a Crown prosecutor read it.

"He took everything from me," she wrote. "I can't love the same."

She said she will have to watch her two sons' graduations by herself instead of with Robichaud by her side.

Anderson Burns's letter was read alongside statements from Sara Burns's mother and father. He thanked friends and the community for their support, saying #FrederictonStrong became a way of life as well as a slogan.

He said that day, on Aug. 10, he learned three lessons "that will stick with me for the rest of my life."

The first, is never take a loved one for granted.

"You never know when you could lose them and you don't get second chances when it comes to life and death," he wrote. "There's no sense in being mad at someone for longer than a week."

The second is life isn't fair sometimes. And the third is that "life is a gift."

Raymond designated 'high-risk'

After considering evidence from Raymond's treatment team, who testified Thursday, and listening to the statements, Justice Larry Landry ruled Raymond is a high-risk accused.

This means a review board cannot discharge him from a secure psychiatric facility until a judge revokes the high-risk designation. Raymond will be held at the Restigouche Hospital Centre, where he will continue to receive treatment. He will have another disposition hearing in front of a review board within 90 days.

In his report, Restigouche psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Holly wrote Raymond's violence stems directly from his mental disorder, schizophrenia. 

"His insight remains poor with rigid thinking," he wrote. "Mr. Raymond remains a significant threat to society and he needs further stabilization."