Nova Scotia·DAY 16 OF INQUIRY

Lionel Desmond's wife inquired about peace bond on day he killed her, himself

Hours before Shanna Desmond's husband fatally shot her, she called a domestic violence crisis line to learn how to file a peace bond in Nova Scotia, a fatality inquiry heard Tuesday.

Shanna Desmond didn't fear her husband, but said others suggested she should be concerned: witness

Lionel Desmond served on a seven-month tour of Afghanistan in 2007 and was later diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder. On Jan. 3, 2017, he killed his wife, their daughter, his mother and himself. (Dave Irish/CBC)

Hours before Shanna Desmond's husband fatally shot her, she called a domestic violence crisis line to learn how to file a peace bond in Nova Scotia, a fatality inquiry heard Tuesday.

The executive director of the Naomi Society in Antigonish, N.S., testified that on Jan. 3, 2017 — the day on which Lionel Desmond would kill his wife, their daughter, his mother and himself — she answered a call from the veteran's wife.

Nicole Mann told the inquiry that her organization, which offers support to women and children experiencing domestic violence, had never interacted with Shanna Desmond before unless she'd previously called anonymously.

In this case, Shanna Desmond didn't give her name.

But when Mann learned Shanna had been killed, she said she recognized the name as the one on the caller ID the day before.

Shanna Desmond called the Naomi Society for support on the day she was killed. (Remembering Shanna Desmond/Facebook)

Shanna Desmond didn't seem concerned for her safety during the call, Mann testified on the 16th day of the inquiry in Guysborough, N.S. She said she wanted information about how to file a peace bond and whether it would also cover her daughter.

"She referenced a 10-year-old … and she asked if the daughter were someone that could be named in the peace bond," Mann said.

Shanna Desmond didn't feel her family was in immediate danger, Mann testified, but told her that other people suggested her husband was unfit to be around their daughter if the military felt he was unfit to serve.

Desmond had been medically released from the military in 2015 after being diagnosed with complex post-traumatic disorder, connected to a seven-month long tour of Afghanistan in 2007.

The illness and its symptoms dogged him for a decade and after spending three months at a residential program in Montreal in 2017, he was reported as having made only minor progress.

No fear

Mann said she felt that Shanna Desmond was getting advice that she should be more concerned about the situation than she appeared to be, and was gathering resources in case she needed them.

"There was no indication in her voice or in her words of fear at any time," Mann said.

The inquiry heard from Lionel Desmond's therapist that in the days before the shooting, his wife had asked for a divorce.

While evidence from multiple witnesses suggests the couple's relationship had problems for years, it would only end in separations that would last a few days. Typically, Shanna Desmond would ask her husband to sleep elsewhere and to cool off after one of his rages, the inquiry heard.

But after a fight on New Year's Eve ended with hours of screaming and Lionel Desmond breaking furniture, this time it was different because she asked to end the marriage.

Mann noted in her testimony that someone is most at risk when they are trying to leave a violent relationship.

"Typically, a relationship that's abusive is about control, and obviously that's a period of time where the control at least appears to be lost by the perpetrator," she said.

A collage of Lionel Desmond, his wife Shanna, mother Brenda, daughter Aaliyah and his military comrades. (CBC)

The first session of the inquiry has highlighted connections between domestic violence, mental health and access to weapons.

Around the same time that Shanna Desmond made that call, her husband was in Leaves and Limbs in Antigonish, where he bought the rifle he would use in the tragedy.

Testimony from gun seller

The man who sold that rifle to him testified Tuesday that he could not believe it when he learned what had happened.

Dan Kulaneck told the inquiry that Desmond seemed completely "calm, relaxed and very patient" during the roughly 15 minutes he spent with him at his store on Jan. 3, 2017.

It seemed no different than the previous visits Desmond had made, Kulaneck testified, shaking his head and saying that he "didn't get it."

The culmination of that day has stayed with him.

When asked by inquiry counsel whether the tragedy weighs on him, Kulaneck dropped his voice and whispered, "Yes," before wiping at his eyes.

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