Nova Scotia

Veteran's uncle testifies Lionel Desmond showed no warning signs the night before triple-murder

On the night before Lionel Desmond shot and killed his wife, his 10-year-old daughter, his mother and then himself, he gave no sign that he was upset or planning the events that unfolded inside his in-laws home the next afternoon, his uncle has testified at the fatality inquiry into the family's deaths.

N.S. veteran would go to his aunt and uncle's home when his wife asked him to cool off somewhere

The fatality inquiry into the deaths of a former soldier and his family heard from Cpl. Lionel Desmond's uncle Thursday. (Dave Irish/CBC)

On the night before Lionel Desmond shot and killed his wife, his 10-year-old daughter, his mother and then himself, he gave no sign that he was upset or planning the events that unfolded inside his in-laws home the next afternoon, his uncle has testified at the fatality inquiry into the family's deaths.

Desmond spent the night of Jan. 2, 2017, at the home of Kenneth and Sandra Greencorn, because his wife, Shanna, had asked him to leave the day before, according to previous testimony. 

Kenneth Greencorn could not remember all of the details about what sent Desmond to his home, but he gave a statement to RCMP after the triple-murder suicide on Jan 3., 2017, that his nephew had mentioned the possibility of divorce.

Greencorn told the inquiry Thursday that he has been in a car crash since the shootings. He had serious physical injuries including a concussion that affected some of his memory.

In his evidence, he noted that he had not reviewed the statement he gave to RCMP on Jan. 5, 2017, and he couldn't remember much about Desmond mentioning the possibility of divorce.

The CBC's Laura Fraser is liveblogging the inquiry:

Shanna Desmond and Aaliyah, 10. (Facebook)

But he said that Desmond did not seem any different that night. He said the two of them sat around talking and loaded wood into the shed.

Later in the afternoon, Desmond went back to his in-laws home and called his uncle to come over to take a look at his snowblower — nothing out of the ordinary, Greencorn said. 

In fact, he talked to Desmond about plans for the weekend. He said the two were going to tear down a barn together. 

"If I had known he needed help or anything; I told him, 'If you need anything, just let me know."'

Police statement

Greencorn seems not to have known much about his nephew's seven-month tour of Afghanistan in 2007, saying he doesn't remember Desmond specifically talking about it.

He knew that his nephew used medical marijuana to calm "his nerves." But he was unaware at the time that Desmond had been diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder in 2011 and major depression connected to his memories of his time serving overseas.

Nor did he know about the psychiatric and psychological treatment Desmond underwent both in the Canadian Forces and at the Occupational Stress Injury Clinic for veterans in New Brunswick. 

Greencorn did, however, know about Desmond's in-patient treatment in Montreal, though he said he didn't know the details. Instead, he said he found his nephew seemed different upon his return, blaming it on the medication he was taking. 

He told the inquiry that he didn't see any signs of conflict in Desmond's relationship with Shanna and described him as "a good dad" to Aaliyah. 

Lionel Desmond is shown here in this family photo, with his mother, Brenda, left, and daughter, Aaliyah, right. (Submitted by Cassandra Desmond)

In his statement to police, however, he said that his nephew had told people about having a dream of cutting off Shanna's head. When questioned about that on Thursday, Greencorn had no recollection of that, but said he would have been truthful with police at the time. 

The inquiry heard this week from other witnesses about Desmond's significant decline after he was discharged from Ste. Anne's Hospital in Montreal on Aug. 15, 2016. He'd been receiving in-patient psychiatric treatment there at a program designed for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other forms of mental illness. 

But he went months without followup care after his discharge from the program, and Judge Warren Zimmer noted that lack of followup led to a "substantial and serious degradation in mental health."

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