As It Happens

Widow of Fredericton shooting victim struggles to accept not criminally responsible verdict

Jackie McLean understands Matthew Raymond was struggling with mental illness when he killed her partner — but she says she is still struggling to accept why a jury found that he was not criminally responsible for the lives he took.

Jackie McLean says Matthew Raymond's 'lack of remorse' makes her question the sincerity of his testimony

A portrait of Const. Robb Costello is surrounded by floral arrangements at the regimental funeral for Costello and Const. Sara Burns, killed in the line of duty, in Fredericton on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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Jackie McLean understands Matthew Raymond was struggling with mental illness when he killed her partner — but she still finds it hard to accept why a jury found that Raymond was not criminally responsible for the lives he took. 

On Friday, the Fredericton, N.B., man was found not criminally responsible for shooting and killing four people in 2018, including two police officers who were responding to the shooting. McLean's partner, Constable Robb Costello, was one of those officers.

Raymond admitted to killing Donnie Robichaud and Bobbie Lee Wright, and then Fredericton Const. Sara Burns and Const. Robb Costello when they responded to calls of shots fired on Aug. 10, 2018.

Two psychiatrists diagnosed Raymond with schizophrenia. During his trial, he testified that he thought he was shooting demons, not real people, and he was convinced the end of times had come. The Crown argued that Raymond's delusions weren't severe enough to cloud his ability to understand what he was doing. 

Matthew Raymond is escorted at Court of Queen's Bench in Fredericton on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

McLean spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off about her husband and the verdict. Here is part of their conversation.

First of all, our condolences for your loss. Can you tell us how you reacted when you heard this verdict of not criminally responsible?

Well, I did sit through the closing arguments and the judge's instructions, and based on that, I had a pretty good idea what the verdict might be. And so, I was mentally prepared for it. But it was still shocking.

You will have a chance to give a statement as to what impact this has had. Do you have an idea what you want the court and the public to know about the effect of the loss … of your husband in this shooting?

I think it's really important to recognize that Robb's loss is not just felt in my life and in my family's lives. His loss has been one for the whole community.

He was an amazing police officer. He specialized in diffusing situations and working with people with mental health issues. The entire city of Fredericton has lost him as a police officer and as a part of the community.

What is it about that job that he liked? Because you said elsewhere that every day he went to work, he never lost enthusiasm for the job. What is it that was so important to him about being a police officer?

One of the things that drew me to Robb initially was his commitment to the community and making the world a better place. I had never really known anybody who had such a strong commitment to their community.

You know, being a police officer — it's not a career, it's a lifestyle. And he lived his commitment to the community 24 hours a day.

And did you did you ever discuss the possibility that it might end tragically as it has?

Yes, actually. We did very early on in our relationship. He brought me a book called Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement. He asked me to read this book and then let him know if I was prepared for that kind of a commitment.

And I read that book and I thought, "we live in Fredericton, New Brunswick. I don't need to worry about him being killed on the job." I was committed. I was on board. He was worth it.

And did he not also promise you that he would always come home?

Yes, he did. He promised me. He said it might not be at the end of shift, could be hours and hours later. But he said, I will always come home. And the day that he was killed was the first time that he did not come home.

You said at the time that you just couldn't stop waiting for him to come home, that that would be the hardest thing for you to adjust to.

I still have moments where I think he's going to come home.

And I have actually had moments where I heard the front door slam and I heard him bang his boots on the door frame like he did when he would pop home while he was working. And my heart breaks when I realize that those footsteps don't come down the hall and greet me with a smile like he always did.

Every day without him is painful. And it's not gotten any easier with time. I didn't realize that about grief. When he first died, I thought that it would get better. But it doesn't really. It never really goes away.

I don't understand what it's like to be inside the head of someone who has schizophrenia or delusional disorder. But that being said, his lack of remorse is really insulting for me as a family member of one of the victims.- Jackie McLean, wife of victim

This man, Matthew Raymond, he killed your partner. Also another police officer and two other civilians and he is found not criminally responsible. You sat through his testimony in the trial. What did you make of him?

Gosh, if I spoke honestly, I would probably say some things that could hurt some feelings, and I don't want to do that.

I work, I volunteer in the community with mental health, and I understand the complexities of mental health issues. I don't feel 100 per cent like he was sincere in his testimony. I feel like he pulled the wool over on us to some degree.

And yet, at the same time, I don't want to pass judgment because I don't suffer from the same mental illness that he does. I don't understand what it's like to be inside the head of someone who has schizophrenia or delusional disorder. But that being said, his lack of remorse is really insulting for me as a family member of one of the victims. 

Your concern for people with mental illness has led you to open a home for adults in Fredericton and you named it after your partner, Robb Costello. Why did you want to give him that honour?

Prior to Robb's death, we had planned to open a new facility and it was a good opportunity for Robb to be remembered.

There is a very, very strong need in our community for more housing for adults with mental illness and we would like to open three more facilities and name those facilities after the other victims.

Victims of the shooting from left to right: Const. Lawrence Robert (Robb) Costello, 45, and Const. Sara Mae Helen Burns, 43, Donald Adam Robichaud, 42, and Bobbie Lee Wright, 32.

Do you think a home like this one and the others, that that is some place that could have helped Matthew Raymond, and maybe someone like him, to prevent crimes like this from happening?

Absolutely. I think that had someone, anyone, said, "hey, this guy needs help and there had been resources available for him," that this tragedy could have been averted.

In these cases, of someone found not criminally responsible, there is the possibility that they could be released someday. How do you feel about that possibility?

It's utterly terrifying. I never want another family to have to go through what our families have gone through. And this gentleman has demonstrated that he's unwilling to take his medication unless he's forced.

And for that reason alone, I feel like he will never be able to be released, and I just hope that whatever review board is assessing him for that will also see that. But given today's verdict, I don't have much faith in that.

Written by John McGill and Lito Howse. Interview produced by Chris Harbord. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.