Nova Scotia

American wanted to recreate Columbine massacre in Halifax mall, court hears

Lindsay Souvannarath, who pleaded guilty for her part in a foiled Valentine's Day massacre at a Halifax mall, was prepared to die, the court heard at her sentencing on Monday.

'I was to be his Eric Harris he was to be my Dylan Klebold,' Halifax mall plotter wrote

American Lindsay Souvannarath started to develop an interest in Nazism in high school, according to a former friend. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Lindsay Souvannarath was prepared to die in a foiled Valentine's Day massacre at a Halifax mall, the court heard at her sentencing hearing Monday. 

Souvannarath was 23 when she was arrested at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Feb. 13, 2015, after flying to Nova Scotia from her home in Geneva, Ill. She has been in custody since. 

Souvannarath, now 26, and her co-conspirator, Randall Shepherd, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder. Shepherd is serving a 10-year prison sentence for his role.

A third man involved, 19-year-old James Gamble, killed himself at his Timberlea, N.S., home as police surrounded the house on the day of the 2015 arrests. 

During Monday's sentencing hearing in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax, the Crown outlined how Souvannarath and Gamble met online over a shared fascination with the Columbine High School massacre

The trio planned to attack people at the Halifax Shopping Centre's food court. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

"Strange feeling to meet someone and almost immediately know you want to die with them. I was to be his Eric Harris he was to be my Dylan Klebold," reads a note found in Souvannarath's cell in 2015 and shown in court on Monday.

Harris and Klebold killed 13 people and then themselves in the 1999 massacre. 

In the agreed statement of facts read on Monday, the court heard Souvannarath told an undercover police officer she was going to wear a skull mask during the shooting. 

Gamble had planned to wear a ghost-face mask like the one in the movie Scream.

"We would have looked so perfect," Souvannarath told the undercover officer. 

'Too many people who need to die'

The court heard the trio's plan was to take Gamble's father's guns and shoot as many people as possible in the food court of the Halifax Shopping Centre. When finished they'd kneel, face each other and shoot each other on count of three.

The court also heard that Gamble had planned to kill both his parents before the mall plot. Both were in court on Monday.

The court heard of several gruesome email exchanges between Souvannarath and Gamble, including one in which Souvannarath hoped the group's actions would inspire more killings. 

"There are too many people who need to die. And too few people willing to kill them," Souvannarath wrote in one exchange.

The Crown said Monday there's "nothing to suggest her [Souvannarath's] world view [on Nazism, racism and hate] has changed during her time in incarceration."

Transcripts of Lindsay Souvannarath's Facebook messages with James Gamble include more than seven weeks' worth of correspondence. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

In Facebook messages, the pair considered changing the date of the planned massacre to Feb. 13.

"One of the perks of doing it on the 13th is that we'll kill people who are out buying presents for their loved ones," wrote Souvannarath.

But she worried that she also had a dentist appointment booked that day, and that if she left Illinois earlier than planned her mother might find out she'd disappeared sooner.

The Crown is recommending a sentence of 20 years to life.

Souvannarath's lawyer, Luke Craggs, is recommending a sentence of 12 to 14 years. 

Few logistics planned, said defence

Craggs argued Souvannarath shouldn't be sentenced for writing "shocking and admittedly horrifying statements very well," adding that the Crown "missed the difference between big talk and big action."

Craggs said the pair talked about details like what kind of music they'd play and what type of nail polish they'd wear, but there was virtually no logistics planning for the attack.

"This conspiracy had little chance of turning into a murder, let alone a mass murder," Craggs said.

Souvannarath declined to address the court. 

Sentencing is scheduled to take place on Friday.

The CBC's Preston Mulligan live blogged from court on Monday. Those on mobile can read it here.

With files from Preston Mulligan