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Sundre McDonald’s murder trial awaits decision

Solaimane Elbettah faces a first-degree murder charge in the 2022 death of Josh Burns
Solaimane Elbettah, facing the camera, and Josh Burns in the Sundre McDonald's restaurant prior to Burns' death on July 4.

SUNDRE – A verdict could come as early as this week in the murder trial of a man charged after he killed a co-worker at the Sundre McDonald’s restaurant in July 2022.

Solaimane Elbettah faces a first-degree murder charge in the death of Josh Burns. Elbettah has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The trial in Calgary Court of King’s Bench before Justice Glen Poelman continued last week with testimony from psychiatrists for both the Crown and defence.

According to an agreed statement of facts presented during the opening of the trial on Feb. 26, Elbettah admitted killing Burns with a machete as the two worked at the restaurant late on July 3, 2022.

Elbettah’s lawyer Pawel Milzcarek is pursuing a not criminally responsible defence. The trial adjourned on Feb. 29 and resumed on June 4.

Testifying early in the trial, defence psychiatrist Dr. Cynthia Baxter said she believes Elbettah suffered delusions and hallucinations that caused him to believe demons were controlling him at the time of the killing. 

Returning to the stand on June 4, Baxter testified Elbettah suffers from schizophrenia. 

“I don’t think there's any question there when we talk about the nature and quality of the act that he knew what he was doing and knew that what he would do would likely cause significant injury, if not death,” said Baxter. 

“It doesn’t answer the question about whether he thought it was morally reasonable to do it, but he absolutely knew what he was doing.

“He speaks about this environment where the disrespect and the perceived racism are the superficial layer, but when you dig at it, he believes that there is all this underlying paranoia and conspiracy and that’s what is causing the situation to be dangerous. It’s not the disrespect per se, it’s the underlying conspiratorial things against him that are the issue.”

Following Baxter testimony and cross-examination, Crown psychiatrist Dr. Yuri Metelista reportedly testified he did not believe Elbettah was suffering from schizophrenia when he attacked and killed Burns.

“I reject the diagnosis of schizophrenia in this case,” said Metelista.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Elbettah would face 25 years in prison before being eligible for parole. If found not criminal responsible, he could see an indeterminate sentence in a medical facility.

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