Nun forgives man declared not criminally responsible in slaying of elderly friend

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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MONTREAL - Minutes after a court found Martin Rondeau not criminally responsible for beating an elderly nun to death, the nun's superior delivered her own spiritual judgment: forgiveness.
Sister Superior Pauline Massicotte said it didn't take long for her and other nuns to find compassion for the man who killed their friend.
"We forgave him right away because he is a human being," Massicotte said outside the courtroom Monday.
"He's not evil, he's not mean. If the Sister were here today, she would have forgiven him."
During the brief, subdued hearing Monday morning, Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer concluded Rondeau was suffering from mental health problems caused by an epileptic fit at the time Sister Estelle Lauzon was killed.
"At the time of the assault on Sister Estelle, the accused suffered from an epileptic seizure and his body was disconnected from his mind," Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier said afterwards.
"He was not responsible for his actions."
Members of Rondeau's family were present in the court but did not speak to the media. Massicotte and another nun sat attentively on the other side of the spectators' gallery during the proceeding.
Massicotte described Lauzon as a kind and giving woman who always sought to help people, mixing a spiritual message in with therapy to help them get back on their feet.
"She was close to everyone, not just Martin but to everyone."
Asked what kind of relationship Lauzon had with Rondeau, Massicotte said, "It was a very good relationship."
Bouthillier explained that while epilepsy is not considered a mental illness in the medical sense, it qualifies in this case under the law.
He said the defence is more often seen in the case of traffic accidents.
Cournoyer will give his motives for the ruling on Wednesday and decide whether Rondeau will be confined for psychiatric care or if he will be given conditional release.
Rondeau, a tall, burly man, had entered a not-guilty plea before the start of the trial.
Massicotte, the director of the Sisters of Providence Convent which includes the halfway house where Rondeau lived, said afterward she had been told by Rondeau's family that he suffered from manic depression and bipolar disorder.
The elderly nun had been one of the first to find Lauzon after the attack in August 2007. She said Rondeau, who was staying at the halfway house, appeared twice as she waited for police and an ambulance.
"I told him `Martin, go back to your room. I'm busy with Estelle'," she said, adding that she would attend to his needs later. She didn't realize he was the attacker.
Massicotte added that she also did not know at that point that Lauzon was dead, and only realized it when police arrived.
The death shook the residents of the Roman Catholic convent.
"It was a crisis of faith," she said.
Massicotte said she hadn't spoken to Rondeau since that night, noting that he was quickly whisked off by police shortly after they arrived.
The Crown said the evidence showed Rondeau had a tendency to be flustered and violent and that he was having a crisis when Lauzon approached him outside her room on the night of the killing.
It said the distraught Rondeau attacked her and they probably fell, with her being crushed under his weight.
"Mr. Rondeau says he has no memories of the event, probably because of the epileptic seizure," Bouthillier said.
Rondeau was then transferred to a hospital for observation and it was determined his condition was real. He has kept having the seizures since his detention.
"Mr. Rondeau had 12 epileptic seizures in jail and each time he was violent with the medical personnel," Bouthillier said.
Bouthillier noted that Lauzon and Rondeau had known each other for several months and there had not been any problems between them.
He said Rondeau was found in a dissociated mental state and had made no attempt to conceal what happened. Traces of blood were found in his room and on him hours after the crime, and Rondeau appeared horrified when he was told what happened.
His lawyer declined to comment until after Wednesday's hearing.

Organizations: Sisters of Providence Convent

Geographic location: MONTREAL

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