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Legal Aid provides counsel for Duggan

Ernie Duggan of Bayhead is seen being loaded into a sheriff's vehicle to transport him back to his cell in Dartmouth following a court appearance in Truro Tuesday morning/
Ernie Duggan of Bayhead is seen being loaded into a sheriff's vehicle to transport him back to his cell in Dartmouth following a court appearance in Truro Tuesday morning/

TRURO, N.S. - With his right arm in a sling and a bandage evident on his upper left bicep, a Bayhead man accused of murdering his neighour made his first court appearance Tuesday morning.

Sarah Duggan is seen outside the provincial courthouse in Truro following an initial appearance by her brother Ernie Duggan, who is charged with first-degree murder.

Ernie (Junior) Duggan, 49, appeared in provincial court in Truro in an orange prison jumpsuit, still showing evidence of the wounds he suffered in an early morning confrontation with the RCMP on Sept. 18 in Tatamagouche.

Duggan is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Susie Butlin, 59. Butlin was found dead in her home shortly before midnight on Sept. 17 after police received a 911 call from the Clarkes Road residence.

Duggan was unable to attend a previous court hearing because he was still hospitalized while recovering from his wounds.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Halifax criminal lawyer Pat Atherton said he was stepping down as Duggan’s solicitor because Legal Aid had informed him it would be providing in-house counsel.

In the process of having the case handed over, Truro Legal Aid lawyer Dave Mahoney said he had just received the disclosure package from the Crown and requested time to review it.

Duggan’s next court appearance is Oct. 19.

He is also charged with attempted murder against several RCMP members because of an alleged standoff between him and the police at the Lockerbie Memorial Cemetery in Tatamagouche. The RCMP pursued Duggan to that location shortly after Butlin’s body was found.

Court documents filed in August show that she had recently applied for a peace bond against Duggan and had felt “threatened” by him after he had made sexual demands of her when he allegedly showed up at her home in a drunken state on July 2.

Outside the courthouse, Duggan’s sister Sarah, 19, said her family was caught completely off guard by the entire situation.

“It was more shocking than anything because why would he do it?” she asked, of her family’s mindset.

Although Duggan had sought medical assistance for mental health issues, she said, he had never displayed any signs or warnings about the potential for violent behaviour.

“I didn’t expect it, she said. “He’s not like that at all. He’s a good person. There’s nothing bad I could say about him, except what happened now. Like, I don’t want to believe that it happened. It’s something that I don’t want to hear about my brother.”

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