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In the days leading to the morning he stabbed his roommate to death because he wouldn’t stop whistling, Mark Haslett had become what the judge called “the prisoner of paranoid delusions.”
Today, Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland sentenced Haslett, 27, to a federal penitentiary for four years after a jury earlier this summer found him guilty of manslaughter — but not second-degree murder as charged — of the February 2013 killing of Rolland (Rolly) Laflamme, 54.
Off his medication for schizophrenia and chronic depression, Haslett firmly believed that Laflamme was taunting him with racial slurs and poisoning his food at their Carling Avenue rooming house.
Haslett testified in his own defence, and the jury heard that his torment peaked when Laflamme wouldn’t stop whistling, even after Haslett politely asked him to cut it out.
He told the jury in a voice so soft that one of his defence lawyers likened it to a whisper and asked him to yell when testifying so the court could hear him.
Haslett said he was being persecuted, stalked and tortured by sounds and voices. He figured Laflamme was the main agent of what his lawyer called “sound torture.”
Defence lawyer Sean May used the trial to shine a light on mental health, likening it to a “plague where only now we’re getting rid of the stigma.” May and partner Samir Adam presented a strong defence, establishing that Haslett had a long, documented history of severe mental illness was therefore not criminally responsible for his actions.
The defence also revealed to the court through witnesses that Haslett had sought help at an Ottawa hospital months before the killing but was turned away and told to go to a homeless shelter downtown.
Though the jury didn’t endorse the defence of mental illness, the judge said the case had everything to do with it.
“There can be no doubt his mental illness was the root cause of Haslett’s attack on Laflamme,” Hackland said in his sentencing decision this afternoon.
The judge called Laflamme an innocent bystander, killed in his own home. “Rolly Laflamme was a valuable human life. He was treasured by his family … He did not deserve to die,” the judge told court.
The judge sentenced Haslett to eight years but credited him four years for pre-trial custody served.
Haslett will serve his sentence at a regional treatment centre inside a federal prison.
Laflamme’s sisters hugged Crown attorneys Carl Lem and Julien Lalande after the sentencing decision. His sisters say they’ll miss their brother’s jokes, their Tuesday night church bingo dates, and his whistling.