The system may have failed Alex Conte but it killed Sarah Nickerson

Alex Conte, 21, on trial for the second degree murder of his 58-year-old mother Sarah Nickerson has been  found “Not Criminally Responsible” for the killing due to a mental disorder. B.C. Supreme Court Judge Malcolm MacCaulay says the testimony of two of Conte’s treating psychiatrists shows he was in a state of severe psychosis when he killed his mother with an axe.

Earlier in this case Crown prosecutor Christine Lowe had told the court a psychiatric assessment found Conte fit to stand trial, although “marginally fit.”  Lowe then agreed with defense attorney Bill Heflin that a second psychiatric assessment is needed to determine if Conte would be fit to stand trial for murder

Conte’s lawyer says the family is relieved with today’s decision. Bill Heflin says the system failed his client, and his mother’s death was preventable.

CTV News reported last year that despite Sarah Nickerson neighbors calling the case “a tragedy”, it was one they knew was coming for some time. The neighbors said police visited the home many times over the years – the last occasion was the Thanksgiving prior to the killing.

The Goldstream News Gazette reporting on the murder last year stated:

Conte had a troubled past before being arrested for his mother’s alleged murder. Last year he was found guilty on three counts of assault. He is currently charged with assault, uttering threats and break and enter from an incident on May 20, 2011.

The B.C. Review Board will determine how long he will remain at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital.