10 weeks at a murder trial: A tale of two mothers

·5 min read

Leaning against her brown metal cane, Dolores Costello would limp up the 31 stairs inside the Fredericton Convention Centre, where she spent more than two months sitting across from her son's killer.

Her son Robb Costello was one of the two police officers fatally shot by Matthew Raymond two summers ago on Fredericton's north side.

This week, 11 jurors found Raymond not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder for the shooting deaths of constables Costello and Sara Burns and civilians Donnie Robichaud and Bobbie-Lee Wright on Aug. 10, 2018.

Raymond has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and delusional disorder, two separate mental illnesses where people have a distorted view of reality.

The morning of the shooting, the 50-year-old barricaded himself in his Brookside Drive apartment because he believed the end times were coming and he was being attacked by demons.

The trial lasted 10 weeks. When the jury was there, so was Dolores.

A different kind of hero

She often wore jeans, a sleeveless shirt, a new pair of burgundy Blundstones — and a necklace carrying some of her son's ashes.

She drove more than an hour from Saint John every morning. And then more than an hour home every night.

She sat in her usual spot at the centre of the makeshift courtroom. Dolores was one of the first to enter the courtroom every day.

She was there when the Crown presented photos of her son lying dead in the parking lot of 237 Brookside Dr.

She was there when the Crown showed Robb's old police vest and duty belt as evidence.

She was there when Raymond told the court he thought Robb was a demon trying to attack him.

CBC
CBC

And she was there to hug Raymond's younger sister, Patricia, in the hallway, after she sobbed through testimony about her brother.

She even mustered up the courage to exchange a few words with Raymond's mother, Shirley Raymond.

Dolores usually stayed composed when evidence was presented.

The only time Dolores left the courtroom was after hearing testimony from a pathologist who described the very bullet that pierced through Robb's heart and killed him.

A mother's faithfulness

For most of the trial, she sat with her arms folded next to her brother and sister-in-law, who drove her to and from the trial. Sometimes she would sit with her fingers intertwined, hands clutched to her face.

She had a quiet demeanour and mostly kept to herself.

Dolores has never spoken publicly about the relationship she had with her only son.

Hadeel Ibrahim, CBC
Hadeel Ibrahim, CBC

But her devotion to him was clear — and admired by strangers.

"She is somebody I would definitely look up to," Melissa Robichaud said in an interview.

Melissa's husband, Donnie Robichaud, from whom she was separated at the time, was one of the victims in the north side shooting.

Melissa said it's been a comfort having Dolores inside the courtroom. The two of them often conversed outside the courtroom, patting each other on the arm after a hard day.

"She's a very strong woman," Melissa said. "I hope that I'm like her someday."

Losing a son to mental illness

Shirley Raymond would arrive at the makeshift courthouse alone or with her son's defence team.

During court breaks, Shirley sat by herself in the far corner of the convention centre.

No one talked to her.

Sometimes she'd sip on a cup of takeout coffee — other times she would simply gaze out the window.

The retired babysitter testified during the final weeks of her eldest son's murder trial.

As his mother spoke, Raymond never took his eyes off her.

Submitted by Court of Queen's Bench
Submitted by Court of Queen's Bench

After she testified, Shirley attended the trial on all but one day.

At lunch, she would nibble on a homemade peanut butter sandwich or flip through a trivia book by herself outside the courtroom.

While the jury was deliberating, Raymond was allowed to speak with his other from the prisoner's box for a few minutes.

He asked her to remove her mask so he could see her face.

Submitted by Court of Queen's Bench
Submitted by Court of Queen's Bench

Wiping away his tears with a tissue he'd folded into a small square, he thanked her for coming. He told her not to worry and to stay strong.

With his red face, he blew her a kiss and told her he loved her.

Shirley, who turned 79 on Monday, returned to a book of poetry she'd brought to read while the jury was out.

Mother and son also spoke after Shirley testified. Surrounded by guards, lawyers and reporters, they cried and held hands.

From the prisoner's box, Raymond said he was sorry. And his mom told him, "it's OK."

Apologizing on her son's behalf

Shirley stayed in the courtroom as families wept or sighed during testimony. Outside the courtroom, she described it as her own real-life "nightmare."

She said she told the families she was sorry for their loss but she wasn't sure it did much good.

She didn't leave when Raymond testified and apologized to the families for killing their loved ones.

She listened with her hands folded neatly in her lap, as her son quietly said he once believed that his mother, too, was an evil demon.

At one point, Shirley said, Raymond needed support too.

And every morning, after a guard removed his handcuffs and he settled into the prisoner's box, he would limply wave in her direction.

Alone from the back row of the courtroom, she always tried to wave back.