Nfld. & Labrador

Family looking for answers after Marystown man found with life-threatening head injuries

Dustin Hannam, 30, has been taken off sedatives following extensive surgery after he was found unconscious in a parking lot, and his family hopes to find out what happened to him.

Burin Peninsula RCMP and major crimes unit investigating what happened to Dustin Hannam

Dustin Hannam, 30, of Marystown was found unconscious with life-threatening head injuries Nov. 1 in a public parking lot in Marystown. (submitted by Charlotte Cheeseman.)

On the evening of Nov. 1, the RCMP in Marystown answered a call from someone claiming there was a man sleeping in the parking lot of the town's post office.

What officers found moments later was anything but a peaceful sleep.

Dustin Hannam, 30, had sustained traumatic head injuries.

"They are life-threatening and very, obviously — if he makes it through — life-altering injuries," said Charlotte Cheeseman, 29, who has a daughter with Hannam.

Taken off sedatives

Hannam was found around 6:30 p.m. and was at the Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre within half an hour, but his condition was so dire, says Cheeseman, the family wasn't sure if he could be saved.

Since the accident, Hannam — whose doctors have taken him off sedatives — has been surrounded by family members waiting and hoping for him to awaken.

Hannam, Charlotte Cheeseman and daughter Kayley — and Kayley's dog Layla — spent time in Lawn on the Burin Peninsula this past summer. (submitted by Charlotte Cheeseman)

While the cause of his injuries is unclear, the local RCMP is treating it as a potential crime and have partnered with the force's major crimes division from St. John's to investigate.

Where are the witnesses?

The parking lot where Hannam was discovered lies in the heart of the Burin Peninsula town, only minutes from the RCMP detachment and a stone's throw from a major hotel and one of the town's two malls.

But if anyone saw anything, they're not talking about it.

"There's been no leads. We are at a loss," said Cheeseman. "We can't believe that at such a busy time in the community, in the centre of Marystown, that no one has seen anything or witnessed anything."

Hannam's sister, Robyn Hannam, 24, is, along with other family and loved ones, making sure her brother is never alone during these crucial days of his recovery. (Stephen Miller)

Both the police and the family have gone public with their plea for anyone with information to come forward.

"Police are canvassing the area and are asking anyone who may have been in the area of Mary Brown's and the post office yesterday evening to report if they witnessed an altercation," reads a release from the police the day after Hannam was found.

Why Hannam?

The heavy police presence provoked speculation on social media: if it wasn't an accident, ask some, why did someone do it? And, more importantly, why would they do it to Hannam?

Hannam and his daughter Kayley have been going on adventures for years. Both love any excuse to get outside and have some fun, as they did a few years ago here at White Hills. (Submitted by Charlotte Cheeseman)

Hannam's younger sister, Robyn Hannam, also has plenty of questions but no answers.

"I really have no idea who might have done it to Dustin, no idea what their intention would be. He truly has a heart of gold and he is kind to everyone that comes across his path," she said.

As much as she wants answers, she is more concerned with how things will turn out for her brother.

Condition will be reassessed

"We're also not sure if he'll be Dustin again. That's still something that's really up in the air," she said.

"And as the doctors and the nurses take the sedation away we will really find out the true extent of his injuries."

Hannam underwent neurosurgery almost immediately upon arrival Nov. 2 at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's, where he remains in the intensive care unit.

His condition will be assessed once he regains consciousness.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Stephen Miller

Stephen Miller is a journalism student at the College of the North Atlantic and a contributor to CBC News in St. John's.