Nova Scotia

Family divided over risk posed by man who killed mom, grandparents

Codey Hennigar was found not criminally responsible for murder. On Tuesday, a review panel refused to allow him unescorted passes from a Nova Scotia psychiatric hospital.

Panel denies Codey Hennigar unescorted passes from Nova Scotia psychiatric hospital

Codey Hennigar Hennigar was arrested in January 2015 after the bodies of his mother, Mildred Ann Ward, and her parents, Clifford and Ida Ward, were found following a fire inside a home in Wyses Corner, N.S. (CBC)

The family of a Nova Scotia man not criminally responsible for killing his mother and two grandparents were divided Tuesday over the decision to deny him unescorted passes from the psychiatric facility where he's being treated.

A panel of the Criminal Code Review Board voted 5-1 to refuse the additional privileges for Codey Reginald Hennigar following a hearing at the Nova Scotia Hospital in Dartmouth, N.S.

The decision was met with cheers from a group of about 30 people at the hearing. It included family and friends who had urged the review board not give Hennigar a Level 4 designation, which would allow him into the community without a staff member.

"I'm pretty happy with it. I think that it wasn't time for him to have the Level 4 access yet," said Chandler Hennigar, Codey Hennigar's younger brother. "I think that it was good staying where it was."

However, Codey Hennigar's paternal aunt, Beth Kennedy, said she was disappointed her nephew was denied greater freedom.

"I've been visiting Codey since this event happened," she said. "Terribly sad for everybody involved, but he's ready. I've seen his progress with the medicine."

3 bodies found in burned home

Hennigar was arrested in January 2015 after the bodies of his mother, Ann Ward, and her parents, Bill and Ida Ward, were found following a fire inside a home in Wyses Corner, N.S.

Hennigar, 33, was tried on three counts of second-degree murder.

In January, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Patrick Murray agreed with the defence and Crown that Hennigar, who had previously admitted to the killings, was not responsible for his actions because of his schizophrenia.

At the time, Crown attorney Mark Heerema said the victims died of a combination of blunt-force injuries to the head and smoke inhalation, and that at least one of the victims was still alive when the fire was set.

Escorted passes 

Hennigar has been treated at the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Dartmouth since January 2015 and currently gets passes for escorted trips outside the facility. He's been to movies and the bank with staff members, for example.

During Tuesday's hearing, which was to determine whether he should get more freedom, his mental-health team argued he was ready for more access to the community. They said Hennigar has been through significant programming, gets along well with staff and other patients, and hasn't shown any symptoms of psychotic episodes for two years. 

"We envision that the scheme for individuals found not criminally responsible is eventually that they should be returned to the community so they can lead full and productive lives, as long as it's safe to do so," said Dr. Scott Theriault, the clinical director for mental health and addictions for the central zone of the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

Crown opposes request

Crown attorney Aileen McGinty opposed the request for privileges out of concern for public safety. 

Several members of Hennigar's family also spoke before the board in passionate victim impact statements.

While his brother begged the review board not to "risk it" by giving Hennigar unescorted passes, his aunt called him a "gentle soul" who is not a danger.

Family friend Geri Tobin said he doesn't wish Hennigar harm, but he wants him to remain in the hospital until it's clear he's not a threat. The comments drew applause from the public gallery.

"All this clinical stuff is fine and dandy, but it's a sugarcoat for the fact that this man bludgeoned three people to death," said Tobin.

Hennigar's first hearing before the Criminal Code Review Board took place in March. The hospital requested his privileges be increased, but the board refused because Hennigar's medication was in the process of being changed at the time.

Hennigar will be back before the review board in January. 

CBC reporter Kayla Hounsell live blogged from the hearing.

With files from the Canadian Press