“It wasn’t just a last-minute decision, either,” said a Duggan family member from her Tatamagouche home on Tuesday.
The woman did not want to disclose her identity.
In an emotional telephone conversation with The Chronicle Herald she said that on many occasions Duggan had admitted himself into the Lillian Fraser Memorial Hospital and had accessed community mental health services. But it fell short of what Duggan, who RCMP charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder on Tuesday, needed.
“He was sick and he needed help and he tried to get help. It went on for a very long time and he didn’t get the help that he needed. He had many, many good qualities and he would have helped anybody always.
“You feel a lot of anger and you feel a lot sadness. We were also close to the victim’s family. We’re all intertwined. How do you go forward?”
That’s a question many Tatamagouche residents are grappling with.
Ernie (Junior) Ross Duggan stands accused of killing his neighbour Susan (Susie) Butlin late Sunday evening. Shortly after that, according to the RCMP, he allegedly exchanged gunfire with officers near Lockerbie Memorial Cemetery on Highway 6, Tatamagouche. He’s currently recovering in hospital.
Another community resident said he was told by a Duggan family member that the accused tried to check himself into the Lillian Fraser Memorial Hospital’s emergency unit about two weeks ago, threatening that he was going to hurt himself and others. The man, who did not want to be identified, said Duggan was turned away because the hospital lacked enough beds.
The Lillian Fraser Memorial Hospital offered little in response to the accusation.
“We have no comment at this time,” said a hospital receptionist on Tuesday morning.
Neither the Nova Scotia Health Authority or the Department of Health and Wellness would comment on the matter, beyond an email statement stating patient information is protected under the Personal Health Information Act.
Still, Duggan’s relative said people tried, but in the end he couldn’t be reached.
“I think everyone did the best they could."
But she wanted people to know that Duggan’s alleged actions did not represent his whole person.
According to several Tatamagouche residents, he was well-respected member of the community, a standout athlete and proud Tatamagouche native.
Duggan had been employed at Forbes Bros. Furniture in New Denmark. Business co-owner Reg Forbes offered one observation concerning Duggan before he abruptly hung up.
“He was one of the best employees we ever had,” said Forbes.
Tatamagouche Coun. Michael Gregory said the tight-knit community was still in a state of shock Tuesday.
“There was a lot of chatting yesterday and there doesn’t seem much today; It’s certainly gone quiet,” said Gregory.
“It’s sad and a devastating loss to the community, so many families effected by this, you know on the side of the deceased person and the side of the person that allegedly did this. Well liked and people thought a lot of him, that’s basically it.”
He said the victim, Susan (Susie) Butlin, was also well-liked and an active community member, who at the time of her death had taken in two exchange students.
“She was a real estate person. You can’t be an ass if you’re dealing with people and trying to sell homes. She had two students staying with her. That speaks volumes about the kind of person she was. She was a grandmother, three lovely sons. What else can you say about them, they were great guys.
“I don’t know what kind of friendship she had with Junior. I must be living in a bubble because I knew of nothing bad between them.”
– By Andrew Rankin/The Chroncile Herald