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Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Halifax Mass Murder Plot

     On Thursday morning February 12, 2015 a caller on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Crime Stoppers tip line caused serious concern with a disturbing report. The tipster said that 19-year-old James Gamble from Timberlea, Nova Scotia, a suburb of Halifax; a 23-year-old woman named Lindsay Kantha Souvannarath from Geneva, Illinois; and a 20-year-old Nova Scotia man, Randall Steven Shepherd planned to shoot as many shoppers as they could on St. Valentine's Day at the Halifax Shopping Centre on the west side of the city.

     The informant said the group had acquired the necessary weaponry to commit Canada's version of America's 1929 St. Valentine's Day massacre. After the mass murder the plotters planned to take their own lives.

     The persons identified by the RCMP tipster revealed through photographs and comments on an Internet chat stream their obsession with serial killers and bloody murder scenes. The American, Lindsay Souvannarath had written messages on her Twitter account she didn't want posted until after her self-inflicted death.

     At one-twenty in the morning of February 13, 2015 police officers watching James Gamble's Timberlea residence observed a couple believed to be the suspect's parents drive away from the house. After pulling the parents over a detective called the house and spoke to their son.

     Gamble, whose house was surrounded by an Emergency Response Team, told the detective on the phone that he was unarmed and ready to exit the dwelling. Instead he shot himself to death in the dwelling. Inside the house, besides the body, officers found three loaded rifles.

     An hour after the suicide in Timberlea, officers took Lindsay Souvannarath into custody when she flew into the Halifax International Airport from her home in Illinois. Police officers also arrested Randall Shepherd who was at the airport to greet her.

     Shortly after her arrest Lindsay Souvannarath confessed that she and the others intended to randomly murder as many people as possible at the Halifax shopping mall.

     A local prosecutor charged the American woman and her 20-year-old Nova Scotia accomplice with conspiracy to commit murder. In the meantime detectives with Nova Scotia's Serious Incident Team were looking into the background of the conspirator who had committed suicide. The investigators were trying to determine the extent of his participation, if any, in the mass shooting plot.

     At a press conference held on Saturday February 14, St. Valentine's Day, Justice Minister Peter MacKay announced that the mass murder plot was not "culturally motivated" or linked to Islamic terrorism. The justice minister called the murder conspirators "murderous misfits." Mr. MacKay acknowledged, however, that murderous misfits like the ones in custody could be exploited by terrorist organizations. He said, "An individual who would so recklessly and with bloody intent plot to do something like this I would suggest would also be susceptible to being motivated by groups like ISIS and others."

     On February 17, 2015 Charles Aukema, one of Lindsay Souvannarath's professors at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, told a reporter with the Cedar Rapids Gazette that his former English student "knew how to put together a sentence and had a command of detail." The professor added, "Sometimes it was pretty sick detail."

     On April 11, 2017 Lindsay Souvannarath pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in the Halifax mall murder plot.

     In September 2018 the judge sentenced Lindsay Souvannarath to life. The judge sentenced Randall Steven Shepherd to ten years in prison.

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