When Mariah Godin was returning home about 11:30pm on Sept. 29, she noticed police cars on Windmill Road and continued. She was singing as she entered the apartment and heard her dog “Boo” respond. The terrier mix “likes to singalong,” according to Godin, and she went into the bedroom to look for him. She immediately noticed a large pool of blood at the foot of the bed but no sight or sound of the dog.
As she began searching for him, she noticed a bag that didn’t belong to her, but none of her things had been moved or touched. Godin wondered if an intruder was present.
Then she found Boo inside the bedroom closet, bleeding from multiple stab wounds.
She called 911.
In the meantime, HRM police had arrested a 26-year-old man named Bradley MacIntyre who had called them asking to be picked up. MacIntyre, a resident of the East Coast Forensic Hospital, had been issued a multi-hour unescorted pass by staff to leave the property, but failed to return at the specified hour. At 9:45pm, the hospital alerted HRM police to be on the lookout for MacIntyre, but he contacted them first.
“I was scared,” Godin told the Halifax Examiner. “Looking back now, I realize I was in shock when I made that 911 call. I was confused and emotional. The apartment still looked the same. When people asked me ‘what happened to the dog?’ and I told them, they said ‘he must have been looking to steal something.’ And I told them ‘No. He was just looking for someone to hurt.’”
That’s the story Bradley MacIntyre told police when they arrested him and what his lawyer, Alex Baranowski with Legal Aid, repeated during his court appearance via video link from the forensic hospital.
MacIntyre and Godin did not know each other.
MacIntyre faces charges of break and enter, possession of a dangerous weapon, and animal cruelty.
Baranowski told Judge Brad Sarson that MacIntyre was “out on a day pass when he began having internal hallucinations, hearing voices, and negative ideation about causing harm to others. The allegations include breaking into someone’s home (apparently at random) where he found a weapon at that residence.”
After being told MacIntyre suffers from schizophrenia, Sarson ordered a 30-day psychiatric assessment. MacIntyre will appear back in court on Oct. 28.
MacIntyre was found not criminally responsible on Jul. 31, 2017 for convictions that included assault with a weapon, animal cruelty, and assault on a police officer. He became a patient at the East Coast Forensic Hospital. On Nov. 18, 2021, he was given a conditional discharge by a lawyer on the Nova Scotia Review Board appointed to assess the progress of people declared not criminally responsible (NCR).
The Examiner can’t determine why MacIntyre was back in hospital again at the time of the break-in at Godin’s residence last month or why hospital staff determined he could be released on a pass described as “indirectly supervised community access.”
According to Krista Keough, a senior communications advisor with Nova Scotia Health, this phrase means that a patient is, “allowed outside of the secure facility for a specific time frame, unaccompanied and with other measures in place for monitoring. For example: itinerary approval, telephone contact for confirmation, and spot checksby community monitors.”
In other words, MacIntyre only needed to tell people at the hospital where he planned to go and provide a cellphone number to act as a tether or “indirect” supervision.
“Boo saved my life”
“I believe Boo saved my life,” said Godin, her voice breaking. “If he hadn’t been there, that man would have been waiting for me when I got home.”.
Godin has attempted to return the favour by ensuring her pet gets the best of care, despite the cost. Godin says the vet and the people at the Metro Animal Emergency Hospital “went above and beyond” to stabilize the dog and generously waive fees before he could be taken to the Atlantic Veterinary Hospital in Charlottetown.
There, Boo underwent a 7.5-hour operation. There were multiple wounds to his chest, abdomen, and spleen as well as a collapsed lung. The dog spent seven nights at the vet college hospital and will return later this week to close a remaining wound.
Godin said without the support from friends, family, animal lovers, and some compassionate vets, Boo would not have survived. She said she is “beyond grateful” for all the help, although her dog still faces a long road ahead. To date, the bills total more than $19,000 and a GoFundMe campaign has raised about $17,000 so far.
Godin said she is unsure how the legal/medical system works to determine when a patient at the forensic hospital is well enough to leave the premises.
“I feel confused and concerned about how patient releases are managed,” said Godin. While she supports the potential for a mentally ill person’s recovery, “clearly something needs to change.”
The Examiner will ask the East Coast Forensic Hospital for comment and will update this article, should there be a response.
Update, Oct. 12:
Privacy legislation which protects the rights of patients means no further information can be provided to the public, according to Krista Keough, senior communications advisor with the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
“The Nova Scotia Personal Health Information Act (PHIA) prevents us from commenting on details relating to an individual’s specific health information. Per section 11 of the act we may only share personal health information (PHI) as permitted by PHIA, for a lawful purpose, or with the express consent of an individual.”
MacIntyre’s story is sadly reminiscent of another from 10 years ago.
Raymond Taavel was a respected gay rights activist who was beaten to death by a resident of the East Coast Forensic Hospital who had been allowed to leave the hospital unescorted for only a few hours. Taavel, 49, was killed outside Menz Bar on Gottingen Street on Apr. 17, 2012, when he tried to break up an early-morning fight between two men.
Andre Noel Denny, 36, was charged with manslaughter and received an eight-year sentence which he served at the hospital.
Denny was high on cocaine and alcohol when he killed Taavel. Denny had prior convictions for assault and violence. The court had declared him not criminally responsible for those convictions because he had been diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
Denny continues to be a resident of ECF today but despite objections, has been permitted to leave for short periods of time.
Friends of Raymond Taavel worked to convince HRM to rename a park in south end Halifax to honour his memory.
Taavel’s family and common-law partner Darren Lewis also launched a civil lawsuit against Denny, the Capital District Health Authority, and the province, alleging negligence. A settlement was reached after former Health Minister Leo Glavine apologized to the family but the financial terms are confidential.
On one level, what happened to Raymond Taavel and to Mariah’s dog might be described as random acts. But the numerous aspects which both attacks have in common expose a failure in the legal/medical system designed to monitor people who — given their violent history and psychiatric diagnoses — present a risk to themselves and to others.
It remains to be seen if this latest case injects urgency into finding a better way to sort out a dangerous dilemma.