SYDNEY, N.S. — The lone survivor of the most notorious crime in Cape Breton’s history has died.
Arleen MacNeil, who survived but was left permanently disabled when she was shot in the head during a robbery at the Sydney River McDonald’s, died Wednesday at the Halifax Infirmary.
On May 7, 1992, a botched robbery at the restaurant resulted in the murders of workers James Fagan, 27, Donna Warren, 22, and Neil Burroughs Jr., 29.
The brutality of the crime shook the community and discussion of it often enflames passions to this day, despite the passage of time.
MacNeil was only 20 years old when she was shot, and she lived for many years at a home in Bridgewater for people with acquired brain injuries. In her wheelchair, she attended some of the proceedings when those accused in the killing were on trial.
Derek Wood, 18, an employee of the restaurant, along with Freeman MacNeil, 23, and Darren Muise, 18, broke into the restaurant after closing, planning to rob it. They managed to steal only $2,017.
Now 44, Muise admitted to killing Burroughs, a married father and maintenance worker. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 20 years. Muise was granted full parole in November 2012. He is now living in lower mainland British Columbia with his girlfriend, living a “stable and financially secure” life, according to his most recent parole board decision.
Wood and MacNeil were convicted of first-degree murder and were able to begin applying for unescorted temporary absences and day parole beginning in 2014 and were eligible to apply for parole last year. In 2015, Wood lost his appeal of the decision to deny him day parole.
MacNeil was the daughter of Howard and Germaine MacNeil.
There will be a funeral mass at St. Joseph’s Church in Bras d’Or Tuesday. Memorial donations can be made to the Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia, Canadian Cancer Society or a charity of one’s choice.