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Sooke man accused of killing mother may not stand trial

Jan 13 2012

A 21-year-old Sooke man charged with the second-degree murder of his mother, Sarah Nickerson, will undergo a forensic psychiatric assessment to determine if he is fit to stand trial.

Alexander Conte appeared bewildered Thursday morning when he appeared by video in Victoria provincial court from the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre.

The young man, with a thick mop of blond hair and a slight beard, appeared to have his hands secured behind his back. He was also wearing what appeared to be a heavy padded vest, not the usual orange jumpsuit worn by inmates. Conte rocked back and forth in the small cell, staring wide-eyed at the floor in front of him as the proceedings took place.

Conte was arrested Sunday afternoon at his mother's mobile home on Otter Point Road in Sooke after police received a call asking for their assistance. When officers arrived at Nickerson's home, they found her dead and arrested Conte for murder.

Defence lawyer Bill Heflin told Victoria provincial court Judge Sue Wishart he had talked to Conte's family doctor and was applying for an assessment to determine if he is fit to stand trial. Crown prosecutor John Labossiere did not oppose the defence's application.

When Wishart asked for more information on the fitness issue, Heflin asked her to impose a publication ban on the information he was to disclose to the court.

Wishart imposed the ban. After listening to Heflin's submission, she ordered an assessment be done within the next five days.

Conte is to appear by video in Western Communities provincial court on

Jan. 19 at 10:30 a.m.

If Conte is found fit, the standard court process for murder will go ahead. If he is found unfit, Conte will spend time in a forensic psychiatric institute to see if he can become fit.

If he cannot become fit, Conte will become the responsibility of B.C.'s psychiatric review board in Port Coquitlam.

Friends described Nickerson, 53, as a free-spirit who loved to dance and was a beautiful pianist. The mother and grandmother was well known in Sooke because she was friendly and caring.


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