Nova Scotia

Gardiner Mines man not criminally responsible for common-law wife's death

Richard Wayne MacNeil was found not criminally responsible for common-law wife's death.

2 psychiatrists testified Richard Wayne MacNeil suffered delusions and paranoia

Richard MacNeil (second from left) is surrounded by sheriffs at Sydney provincial court. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

A man from Gardiner Mines, N.S., has been found not criminally responsible for the brutal killing of his common-law wife of 10 years.

Richard Wayne MacNeil, 40, had been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Sarabeth Ann Forbes, 33, on April 18, 2017.

Supreme Court Justice Frank Edwards made the ruling in Sydney on Monday after a two-day hearing.

Delusions and paranoia

Edwards heard evidence from two psychiatrists who said MacNeil suffered delusions and paranoia.

MacNeil was diagnosed in 2012 with paranoid schizophrenia.

Evidence showed he was treated and prescribed medicine, but it was not very effective. MacNeil stopped taking his medication five days before he killed Forbes.

Rapid deterioration

Dr. Stephen Hucker, a forensic psychiatrist at the University of Toronto, testified by way of video link that he interviewed MacNeil twice in person.

Hucker said he also examined police testimony and read the reports of the psychiatrist at the East Coast Forensic Hospital, Dr. Scott Theriault.

MacNeil had a severe mental disorder that involved hallucinations and delusions of persecution and he was unable to appreciate that what he did was morally or legally wrong, Hucker said.

The deterioration happened rapidly after MacNeil came off his medication and he was in a psychotic state, Hucker said.

MacNeil shot his wife in the back of the neck with a shotgun while they were in the kitchen of their Gardiner Mines home.

Crown did not oppose

Crown attorney Steve Drake did not oppose the defence's argument that MacNeil was not criminally responsible.

"What's a Crown to do with that?" he said. "You can't argue that he is criminally responsible. It's impossible. You have no evidence, particularly with the two expert opinions and the evidence that we had."

Friends describe Sarabeth Forbes as full of life and always smiling. (Submitted by Tanya Hennick-McNeil)

Edwards said both families had the court's sympathy and that it was "obvious to anybody after listening to the doctors and counsel that the not criminally responsible defense has been made out."

Edwards said he was in total agreement with Theriault's conclusion that MacNeil failed to understand he killed his wife and that there was "absolutely nothing in the evidence that this was all put up for show to justify the killing."

Edwards said there was undeniable evidence that MacNeil's actions are a product of his schizophrenia.

Tragic and sad case

Drake called the case "an unfortunate and difficult crossroad between the criminal justice system and mentally disordered accused."

"The well-worn intersection is often the site of many tragic and sad cases, and this case is no exception," Drake said.

MacNeil has been remanded to the East Coast Forensic Hospital where a review board will decide on his treatment.

The board must meet within 45 days and also must review the case once a year.


Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith was born and raised in Cape Breton. She began her career in private radio in Sydney and has been with CBC as a reporter, early morning news editor and sometimes host since 1990.