Nova Scotia

N.S. man who killed mother and grandparents given more freedoms

Codey Hennigar, who killed his mother and grandparents and then set fire to their home, has been granted more freedom to leave the East Coast Forensic Hospital. He's been held at the hospital since being found not criminally responsible for the crimes.

Codey Hennigar has been at East Coast Forensic Hospital since being found not criminally responsible

Codey Hennigar is pictured at the Halifax Law Courts on Tuesday. The treatment team at the province's only secure psychiatric facility has been recommending a gradual increase in freedoms for Hennigar, as part of their plan to gradually reintroduce him into the community. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

A man who killed his mother and grandparents and then set fire to their home has been granted more freedom to leave the East Coast Forensic Hospital, where he's been held since being found not criminally responsible for the crimes.

Nova Scotia's Criminal Code Review Board held its annual review Tuesday in the case of Codey Hennigar, 34.

The bodies of his mother, Ann Ward, and her parents, Bill and Ida Ward, were found in the burnt remains of their home in Wyses Corner, N.S., in January 2015. Hennigar was arrested a short time later.

The treatment team at the province's only secure psychiatric facility has been recommending a gradual increase in freedoms for Hennigar, as part of their plan to gradually reintroduce him into the community.

On Tuesday, the treatment team recommended that he be given a conditional discharge, which would have accelerated his release.

Up to 6-day stretch of leave from hospital

But in a departure from previous hearings, the Crown and defence made a joint recommendation that Hennigar be given less freedom than the experts had been proposing.

The two lawyers recommended — and the review board accepted — Hennigar be granted a clearance level of L-6. That would allow him to leave the hospital for up to six days at a stretch.

However, the lawyers and medical staff cautioned that the new measures do not mean Hennigar will be moving out immediately.

The first step suggested by the treatment team would see him reside in one of the cottages on the grounds of the hospital.

Monitored independent living

There he could be monitored while he makes the adjustment to more independent living.

Forensic psychiatrist Scott Theriault, who led Hennigar's treatment team, said the hospital is even stepping up security at the cottages by placing security cameras inside the buildings.

A licensed practical nurse is also based in the cottages five days a week.

The board was told that Hennigar has been trying to find a job but has confined his search to the Burnside industrial park surrounding the hospital.

He has so far been unsuccessful.

Theriault and other members of the team said Hennigar has anxiety about — among other things — riding on buses, and that has hampered his job search somewhat.

Before Tuesday's decision, Hennigar had been using day passes that allowed him outside the hospital for up to 12 hours at a time. However, he had to return to the facility by an early-evening curfew.

The new conditions will allow him to stay away overnight.

Hennigar's family voice concerns

The hearing was held at the Halifax Law Courts instead of in the usual hearing room at the hospital.

That was partly to accommodate Hennigar's family, who packed the hearing to voice their concerns about him getting too much freedom too soon.

Hennigar's younger brother Chandler said the process has been hard for everyone.

"It can be pretty gruelling. It brings back a lot of things. It makes it seem like it's fresh in the air when you bring it up again," Chandler Hennigar said.

"And I think opening old wounds can also be a problem for the grieving process. It's definitely been trying. I've had moments where this whole thing has caused me to be a little unstable."

While he has been given a lot more freedom, Codey Hennigar must stay within the urban areas of the Halifax Regional Municipality and avoid the Musquodoboit Valley, where many family members live and where the killings occurred.

Hennigar must also abstain from alcohol and drugs, including marijuana, which could exacerbate his schizophrenia, doctors warned.

About the Author

Blair Rhodes

Reporter

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 35 years, the last 27 with CBC. His primary focus is on stories of crime and public safety. He can be reached at blair.rhodes@cbc.ca