July 12th, 2024

‘There was a plan’: Psychologist says Saskatchewan killer had psychopathic traits

By Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press on January 19, 2024.

MELFORT, Sask. – A criminal investigative psychologist says the killer behind a massacre on a Saskatchewan First Nation had many psychopathic traits and planned his stabbing rampage.

“You’ve got somebody that’s really not looking out for anybody but himself,” Matt Logan told a coroner’s inquest in Melfort, Sask., on Friday.

Logan, who is also a former RCMP officer, said Myles Sanderson scored 33 out of a possible 40 on the scale that measures psychopathy.

Sanderson killed 11 people and injured 17 others on James Smith Cree Nation and in the nearby village of Weldon, northeast of Saskatoon, on Sept 4, 2022.

The 32-year-old died in police custody a few days later.

Logan reviewed Sanderson’s court records, visited the First Nation and spoke with family members. He has never met Sanderson and said he cannot make an official diagnosis.

Logan said the killer showed signs he was lacking in remorse, had a reckless disregard for himself and others, and would explode in unpredictable and violent outbursts.

Sanderson likely also had anti-social personality disorder, intermittent explosive disorder and could have had fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, Logan said. Sanderson had a high risk to reoffend violently, he added.

The inquest, scheduled for at least two weeks, has heard Sanderson had a serious history of violence and incarceration. A jury heard emotional testimony Thursday from his common-law partner, Vanessa Burns, who recounted 14 years of domestic violence by Sanderson, the father of her five children.

Burns told the inquest Thursday that she and Sanderson went to the First Nation to sell drugs, but she drove back to Saskatoon after he attacked her.

The inquest heard Sanderson and his brother, Damien Sanderson, then caused chaos in the community in the days leading up to the killings, assaulting people and selling drugs.

The criminal psychologist said the brothers talked with people about being on a mission. Myles Sanderson also hadn’t slept in days and had expressed rage towards Terror Squad, a gang with a presence in Saskatchewan.

Logan said he could not discern why Sanderson was so angry at the gang but “revenge is a strong motivator.”

Damien Sanderson’s wife also testified Thursday that her husband feared his brother and that he called him the devil.

Skye Sanderson said she called 911 the day before the stabbings, saying her husband had taken her vehicle without permission. Damien Sanderson was wanted on outstanding warrants over domestic violence charges.

While officers located the vehicle, they didn’t find Damien Sanderson because he gave a false name and didn’t look like an old photo police had of him.

Skye Sanderson said during this time her husband was also sending her fatalistic text messages about death and missions with his brother.

“We do know that there was a plan because Damien mentioned the plan,” Logan said. “How detailed it was, we have no idea.”

The inquest has heard that Myles Sanderson first killed his brother. He then went throughout the community, armed with a knife, attacking people.

The inquest is to establish the events leading up to the killings, who died, and when and where each person was killed. Logan said his report also aims to understand why it happened.

The psychologist discussed the killer’s unstable childhood, noting Sanderson was bounced around different homes and suffered both physical and emotional abuse.

Sanderson had issues abusing alcohol by 13 and later would use cocaine and methamphetamine.

Logan said it’s likely Sanderson felt unwanted and abandoned in his childhood, which would be a trigger for violence in adulthood.

Sanderson dropped out of high school and never kept a job for very long.

He also had a lengthy criminal history, including 59 convictions as an adult. Sanderson was unlawfully at large at the time of the killings.

Earlier Friday, Mandy Maier, who works in communications with the Saskatchewan RCMP, told the inquest human error was behind an emergency alert with the wrong image of the killer in the early hours of the Mounties’ response.

“(It was) absolute organized chaos,” said Maier, who works in communications with the Saskatchewan RCMP.

The civilian RCMP employees who issue emergency alerts received a call at 6:26 a.m. on Sept. 4, 2022, that something bad was happening on the First Nation, Maier said. RCMP issued the first dangerous person alert at 7:12 a.m.

The third alert included photos it said were of Myles and Damien Sanderson. However, Maier said the communications unit was notified at about 9 a.m. that the photo of Myles Sanderson was of another person with the same name from the same community.

Maier said the photo was removed from the emergency alert website immediately. Another emergency alert with the correct photo was sent out by around 10 a.m., she said.

Keith Brown, the First Nation’s lawyer, asked Maier why the community would not be asked for images or confirmation of Sanderson’s identity.

“We think about how quickly this incident is unfolding and we use the information that we have at the time,” she said.

She said secondary conversations with members of the First Nation could cause a delay when time was of the essence.

The public has a lot of expectations around emergency alerts, Maier said, especially after the 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia where RCMP were criticized for not issuing them soon enough.

A second inquest focusing on Sanderson’s death is scheduled for February.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2024.

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