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Hearing will consider man's mental state at time of mom's death

Aug 16 2012

A three-day hearing will be held in January to determine whether a 21-year-old Sooke man is not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder for the death of his mother.

Alexander Conte is charged with the second-degree murder of his mother, Sarah Nickerson. On Wednesday, he appeared by video in B.C. Supreme Court from the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Port Coquitlam, where he has been assessed.

Conte sat calmly through his brief appearance as Crown prosecutor Melissa Murray asked Justice Robert Johnston to order a three-day, judge-alone trial during the week of Jan. 28.

Outside court, Conte's defence lawyer, Bill Heflin, said the trial is actually a hearing to determine whether or not Conte was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the alleged offence, which would exempt him from criminal responsibility.

The young man was arrested Jan. 8 at his mother's mobile home on Otter Point Road in Sooke. Police received a call asking for assistance. When officers arrived, they found Nickerson dead and arrested Conte.

In February, Conte was found marginally fit to stand trial. A second assessment was completed, but has not been discussed during his court appearances.

Asked how his client was, Heflin said, "He is exhibiting some distinct improvement." ldickson@timescolonist.com

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