Nova Scotia

Arleen MacNeil, lone survivor of 1992 McDonald's murders, dead at 46

Arleen MacNeil was shot in the head and left disabled in one of Nova Scotia's most notorious crimes. She is being remembered as a country music fan, the 'queen of crazy eights' and for having a positive outlook.

MacNeil is being remembered for her positive outlook, love of country music

Arleen MacNeil will be buried in Sydney Forks, N.S. (J.A. Snow Funeral Home)

The lone survivor of the 1992 McDonald's murders in Sydney River, N.S., died in a Halifax hospital on Wednesday.

In her obituary, Arleen MacNeil, 46, is being remembered as a country music fan and the "queen of crazy eights." She loved going for long walks in her wheelchair and playing computer games. 

In 1992, the then 20-year-old was shot in the head and left disabled in one of Nova Scotia's most notorious crimes. 

During a robbery of the Sydney River McDonald's, three men killed three employees and critically wounded MacNeil, who was also working at the restaurant.

Father Peter McLeod, the priest at St. Joseph's Parish in Little Bras d'Or, will officiate MacNeil's funeral service on Tuesday. 

McLeod first met MacNeil and her family when she was living in Cape Breton several years after the attack.

'Positive outlook on life'

"I remember her as being someone who, considering what happened, seemed to be very positive in her outlook," he said. "She was incapacitated, but still seemed to have a positive outlook on life."

The shooting left MacNeil with physical and intellectual disabilities, and she later moved to a facility in Bridgewater to receive specialized care. She lived there for 23 years.

The former McDonald's in Sydney River, N.S.

MacNeil was an only child, but had a large extended family. Her parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins pulled tightly around her, McLeod said. 

Her Cape Breton community also came together after the 1992 shooting.

"It's such a big thing in terms of what happened and everybody's so familiar with the story, and the shock of it, which people still feel to this very day," McLeod said.

'A time that brought people together'

"I know there were a lot of people in this parish ... who were telling me they did their best to support the family in those first few years. It was sort of a time that brought people together." 

MacNeil had been ill, but McLeod said his understanding is that her death was unexpected, which has been surprising and saddening for people in the community.

"It brings everything back, and plus, it's a shock for them too," McLeod said. 

MacNeil will be buried in Resurrection Cemetery in Sydney Forks.

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