Desmond inquiry: N.S. judge says his final report won't be released until next year

HALIFAX — The Nova Scotia judge leading an inquiry into the death of a former soldier who killed his family and himself in 2017 says a final report will be released sometime next year.

The fatality inquiry, overseen by Judge Warren Zimmer, started public hearings in January 2020, but the proceedings were delayed almost a year because of restrictions imposed as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

The provincial inquiry heard that Lionel Desmond served as a rifleman in Afghanistan in 2007, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression in 2011, and was medically discharged in 2015.

Despite four years of treatment while he was in the military, the inquiry heard Desmond was still a desperately ill man after he left an intensive residential treatment program in Montreal in 2016.

On Jan. 3, 2017, Desmond legally purchased a semi-automatic rifle and used it later that day to kill his 31-year-old wife, Shanna; their 10-year-old daughter, Aaliyah; and his 52-year-old mother, Brenda.

Zimmer, a provincial court judge, issued a statement saying a recent announcement from the provincial Justice Department had indicated his report and recommendations were expected before the end of this year, but he made it clear that won't happen.

"I appreciate that this has been a lengthy and emotional process for everyone involved, especially the families who lost loved ones," Zimmer said in the statement Thursday.

"They are waiting on an outcome. However, the volume of information that needs to be considered, analyzed and incorporated into the final report is challenging and substantial in all its details."

The inquiry heard from 70 witnesses during 56 days of hearings and reviewed 58,699 documents. Public hearings concluded in April.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2022.

The Canadian Press