Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Woman who survived suicide pact deported

Travelled to Alberta with mother to die

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STONY PLAIN, Alta. — An American woman convicted of helping her mother commit suicide was freed Tuesday, only to be immediately transferred into the custody of border guards for deportation back to Arizona.

Provincial court Judge Charles Gardner agreed with the Crown and defence lawyers the eight months Linda McNall had served in custody was sufficient punishment.

"I take some comfort that your condition is improving," he told McNall, who was seated in the prisoner's box.

"I hope you will receive some ongoing treatment and comfort... and that you eventually find worth and value in your life."

"Thank you. I appreciate that," McNall responded.

McNall had attempted to follow through on a suicide pact she entered with her mother, Shirley Vann, in a tent near Hinton, west of Edmonton, last spring.

Vann died. McNall survived, but she has since tried twice to kill herself while in care and she is on anti-depressant medication.

McNall's lawyer, Laura Stevens, said Canada Border Services will put McNall on a plane today to Phoenix, where she will be assessed by a case worker and a crisis team.

Stevens said U.S. authorities have not agreed to put her in a hospital because she can't pay for a bed. She has only a three-week supply of her depression medication.

The 53-year-old also suffers from diabetes, is estranged from her siblings, and has only $15 to her name, along with $2,300 raised in donations while she has been in Canada.

"She is likely to end up at a women's shelter, for homeless women," Stevens told reporters after the hearing. "This will be a destabilizing time."

Last May, McNall and Vann, 79, drove up from Arizona to Rock Lake, near Hinton, 350 kilometres west of Edmonton, with a plan to kill themselves.

They had grown close over the years, with both coming off failed marriages, but things began unravelling when Vann was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2010.

Vann eventually had surgery on her intestines and developed kidney problems.

McNall grew depressed after contracting hepatitis C while on the job as a nurse.

With unpaid medical bills around $100,000, the pair abandoned their home and travelled through Nevada and Idaho and eventually to Sierra Vista in Arizona.

It was there they decided life was no longer worth living, so they packed up and drove to Alberta -- a place visited previously -- to end it all in the splendour of the Rocky Mountains.

At Rock Lake, they pitched a tent, signed a suicide note and went to work. They injected themselves and their two dogs with insulin, swallowed an overdose of sleeping pills and opened the valves on two propane tanks.

By morning, Vann and the dogs were dead, but McNall somehow survived. She drove her mother's body to the hospital in Hinton, where she was treated and, less than a week later, charged with assisting a suicide.

She pleaded guilty in court in Stony Plain on Dec. 17.

McNall has been in psychiatric care in Edmonton since her arrest.

Stevens said McNall has responded well to treatment and has said she no longer wishes to kill herself.

"It's going to be tough still, but she has definitely got a better outlook now. It's night and day talking to her yesterday and six months ago," said Stevens.

"This isn't really a happy ending, in the sense there has been so much tragedy here, but I hope there is a happy ending for her."

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 8, 2014 A7

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