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Man admits to fatal machete attack on teenage coworker at McDonald's but pursues NCR defence

Solaimane Elbettah, facing the security camera, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Josh Burns, whose back is to the camera. Elbettah admitted to slitting the teen's throat with a machete on July 4, 2022. (Court exhibit - image credit)
Solaimane Elbettah, facing the security camera, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Josh Burns, whose back is to the camera. Elbettah admitted to slitting the teen's throat with a machete on July 4, 2022. (Court exhibit - image credit)

A man who used a machete to attack his teenage coworker at a McDonald's in Sundre, Alta., admitted to the killing but will ask the judge to find him not criminally responsible (NCR), court heard Monday.

Solaimane Elbettah, 28, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Josh Burns, 19, who was killed in the early morning hours of July 4, 2022.

While Elbettah admitted to attacking Burns, defence lawyer Pawel Milczarek indicated he plans to argue the accused was suffering a psychotic break at the time of the killing and cannot be held responsible for his actions.

The trial began Monday. All of the details surrounding the killing were admitted as part of an agreed statement of facts read aloud in court by prosecutor Vince Pingitore.

Sundre resident Josh Burns, 19, was found dead at a local McDonald's restaurant on July 4. A 27-year-old man has been charged with first-degree murder.
Sundre resident Josh Burns, 19, was found dead at a local McDonald's restaurant on July 4. A 27-year-old man has been charged with first-degree murder.

Sundre resident Josh Burns, 19, was found dead at a local McDonald's restaurant on July 4, 2022. Solaimane Elbettah is on trial for murder. (Facebook)

Justice Glen Poelman heard that on the night of July 3, 2022, and into the early morning hours of July 4, Elbettah and Burns worked the overnight shift at McDonald's on Main Avenue in Sundre.

They were the only two on shift at the time.

Minutes before the killing, Elbettah and Burns smoked together outside the restaurant.

'There was a murder'

Elbettah then shut down the drive-thru, left the McDonald's and crossed the street to the motel where he'd been staying to retrieve a machete.

He returned to the McDonald's and attacked Burns, leaving a "large, deep wound to the neck" that measured about 28 centimetres (11 inches), according to the agreed statement of facts.

This photo shows Solaimane Elbettah in the Sundre McDonald's manager's officer with a machete, moments before he attacked his coworker Josh Burns, 19.
This photo shows Solaimane Elbettah in the Sundre McDonald's manager's officer with a machete, moments before he attacked his coworker Josh Burns, 19.

This photo shows Solaimane Elbettah with a machete in the manager's office at the Sundre McDonald's moments before he attacked his coworker, Josh Burns, 19. (Court exhibit )

Elbettah left the victim on the floor of the restaurant.

Over the next three hours, he texted the McDonald's manager telling her to call police.

"There was a murder at the restaurant, don't walk in by yourself," wrote Elbettah.

"Sorry about everything. He was insulting me and he was thinking he was better than me because he was white."

'I want to turn myself in'

Eventually, Elbettah called 911 himself from a nearby field.

Pingitore played the entire 25-minute call for the court.

"I want to turn myself in," Elbettah told the 911 operator. "I killed someone."

After the Crown finishes presenting the evidence surrounding the case, which will include Elbettah's statement to RCMP the day after the killing, defence will call a forensic psychiatrist to testify.

Pingitore indicated the Crown will seek its own psychiatric assessment of Elbettah. The trial will eventually be adjourned for that to happen.

If he is found not criminally responsible, Elbettah will be sent to a secure psychiatric facility instead of prison.