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Sundre McDonald's machete murder trial adjourned for second psych assessment

Date for Solaimane Elbettah's trial to continue in Calgary will be set once another psychiatric evaluation has been completed
MVT-Josh Burns
Josh Burns, 19, who graduated from Innisfail High School in 2021 and eventually found employment at the Sundre McDonald’s, was found July 4, 2022 deceased at the restaurant by members of the Sundre RCMP department who were responding to a complaint about homicide. File photo

The Court of King’s Bench trial of a man accused of killing a co-worker at the Sundre McDonald’s restaurant in July 2022 has been adjourned after a week of testimony.

Solaimane Elbettah, 28, faces a first degree murder charge in the death of Josh Burns, 19. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

His judge-only trial before Justice Glen Poelman began on Feb. 26 in Calgary.

On Thursday, psychiatrist Dr. Cynthia Baxter reportedly testified that Elbettah suffered delusions and hallucinations that caused him to believe demons were controlling him.

She diagnosed Elbettah as suffering from schizophrenia.

Elbettah has admitted killing Burns early on the morning of July 4, 2022 as the two men worked inside the Sundre McDonald’s restaurant.

In an agreed statement of facts presented to the court, Elbettah admitted he struck Burns in the neck with a 17-inch machete he had brought into the facility moments earlier.

Burns died at the scene and Elbettah was arrested near the restaurant several hours later.

Elbettah’s lawyer, Pawel Milczarek is making a not criminally responsible (NCR) defence. 

On Feb. 27 Elbettah reportedly testified: “I acknowledge I killed somebody and believe that happened. I was going through some struggles.”

Elbettah said he was hearing demons at the time of the attack. “I’m a threat to them, “ he testified. “Unfortunately, they got Josh. I see it in the eyes of Josh. Demons are making problems.”

Justice Poelman has granted Crown prosecutor Vince Pingitore an adjournment so he can consult with a second psychiatrist before cross-examining Baxter.

The case will be back in court on March 22 to set a date for the trial to resume.

Prosecutor Vince Pingitore told Justice Poelman that the Crown’s psychiatrist who assessed Elbettah has come down with a serious medical issue, making it necessary for another assessment to be conducted by a different psychiatrist.

Pingitore asked the justice to adjourn the trial so a follow up assessment of Elbettah can be made.

Justice Poelman granted that adjournment on Feb. 29.

A date for the trial to continue will be set once that evaluation has been completed.

Elbettah has remained in custody since being arrested on July 4, 2022.

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