Mentally ill N.S. man who killed his mother, grandparents denied greater freedom
HALIFAX -- More than two years after a mentally ill Nova Scotia man killed his mother and two grandparents, a team of mental-health professionals argued Tuesday he should be granted unescorted day passes.
They said Codey Hennigar has shown no signs of violence, aggression or psychotic symptoms.
But members of Hennigar's own family and a Crown prosecutor persuaded a review board that the 33-year-old -- declared not criminally responsible for the 2015 killings -- is not ready to function on his own in the community.
"Please, don't risk it yet," Hennigar's younger brother, Chandler, told the board.
In an emotionally charged hearing inside a psychiatric hospital, a six-member Criminal Code Review Board denied Codey Hennigar's request for unescorted passes, concluding in a 5-1 decision that more time was needed to ensure he is mentally stable.
The board's chairman, Peter Lederman, said it had been only two months since Hennigar had completed the transition to a new anti-psychotic drug regime.
"We want to see a longer period of stability on the new drug," Lederman told the hearing.
Another hearing has been scheduled for January.
Dr. Scott Theriault, director of the Department of Psychiatry at the Capital District Health Authority, told the board Hennigar was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2014. Since he started receiving treatment at the hospital, he has been "fastidious" about taking his medication, he said.
Theriault said Hennigar has expressed remorse for what he did, but he has yet to speak about what happened in detail.
Dressed in green dress shirt and jeans, Hennigar said nothing during the hearing, his hands folded on the table in front of him. The heavy-set, bespectacled man appeared to pay attention to the hearing but displayed no obvious reactions.
He was arrested in January 2015 after the bodies of his mother, Mildred Ann Ward, and her parents, Clifford and Ida Ward, were found following a fire inside a home in rural Wyses Corner, N.S.
Hennigar was charged with three counts of second-degree murder and he was ordered to stand trial in December 2016.
However, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Judge Patrick Murray agreed with the defence and Crown that Hennigar, who had previously admitted to the killings, was not criminally responsible for his actions due to mental illness.
At the time, Crown attorney Mark Heerema said the victims died of a combination of blunt-force injuries to the head and smoke inhalation, and that at least one of the victims was still alive when the fire was set.
Since then, Hennigar has been receiving treatment at the Halifax-area East Coast Forensic Hospital. He was granted escorted day passes after a similar hearing in March, and has travelled to the city with staff members on at least a dozen occasions, mainly for "recreational treatment."
Chandler Hennigar told the board that he wanted to see his brother rehabilitated, but it was too soon to grant him more freedom.
"I'm not sold on it right now," he told the board.
Chandler Hennigar said he suffers from night terrors and he worries about the safety of his family and his neighbours.
"I have scars both inside and out, and there's a scar on the inside that is never going to heal," he said.
One of Hennigar's neighbours was more blunt.
"You're sugar-coating the fact that this man violently bludgeoned a family to death," said the woman, who identified herself as Geraldine.
She said Hennigar was a manipulative and vindictive person who was known for making threats in the community before he was taken into custody.
"Please, I want justice," she said. "Two years is not enough for this man ...Whether he was not criminally responsible or not, he (killed) three people and the family dog. I want him in long enough that we know he is not a threat."
Crown lawyer Aileen McGinty said the safety of the public was of paramount importance.
"This has all been very quick," she told the board, adding that Hennigar has a history of violence and was refusing to take his medication before he killed his relatives. "There's a significant threat to public safety ... The severity of the outcome if things go wrong is the main factor to consider."
Beth Kennedy, one of Hennigar's aunts on his father's side, told the board he should be granted his request.
"I've seen such an improvement in Codey," she told the board, adding that when she first met with him after he was arrested, he was in rough shape.
"He wasn't Codey. You would look into his eyes just see black holes," she said. "Now, he's a big, gentle soul ... I love him and I don't think he's a risk."
Outside the hearing room, she said she was disappointed with the decision. She said family members opposed to his request just don't understand.
"I think it's their hurt that they can't get by. They have to understand that it really wasn't him doing it. It was his sickness. He fell through the cracks. He didn't get the help he needed."