An American woman who plotted to go on a Valentine’s Day shooting rampage at a Halifax mall has been sentenced to life in prison with no parole for a decade.
Lindsay Souvannarath was charged with conspiracy to commit murder for the plot she called Der Untergang (German for “The Downfall”), in which she and a Canadian man would go to the center’s food court, throw firebombs and then shoot people with a shotgun and rifle before turning the weapons on themselves.
“Ms. Souvannarath’s prospects for rehabilitation are very questionable. She is an ongoing danger to public safety, which danger will persist for an indefinite period of time,” Halifax Superior Court Justice Peter Rosinski said.
He said Souvannarath took the “dominant position” in the duo’s plan, which they developed online in about 1,200 Facebook messages.
Souvannarath has shown remorse only for the death of a co-conspirator, who killed himself as police were trying to arrest him, the judge said.
Rosinski said he believes the only reason she pleaded guilty last April is the judge had ruled that Facebook conversations between her and the co-conspirator would be allowed as evidence at trial.
He further noted her lack of remorse.
“Ms. Souvannarath advised the probation officer that she accepted full responsibility for her actions but did not express remorse for her actions, saying she had ‘ideological reasons’ for making the plan, which were ‘complicated’ to explain further,” Rosinski said.
Souvannarath’s intent to mock her victims as they died also was a factor in the sentence, Rosinski said.
Souvannarath declined to speak at her sentencing. Her parents attended the hearing and had submitted letters to Rosinski.
Souvannarath is eligible for parole after 10 years. Since she is being given credit for the three years she has been in jail since her arrest, she can apply for parole in seven years.
The sentencing came on the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado and the 129th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birth.
Souvannarath admired the Columbine killers and Nazis, according to posts on her Tumblr blog. “Swastika” was part of her Tumblr username.
A Geneva High School yearbook shows a pencil drawing she did of a ghoulish Nazi soldier on a page devoted to the role-playing game club to which she belonged.
A presentencing report indicated Souvannarath comes from a stable and supportive home, with no substance or domestic abuse. Her parents told investigators she had few friends and seemed to have difficulty relating to people.
A Canadian court-appointed psychiatrist diagnosed her with severe depression and said she may have Asperger Syndrome, a diagnosis on the autism spectrum.
The judge’s decision quoted from some of Souvannarath’s Facebook messages.
In one exchange, she wrote she had tried to kill herself two years previous and “nearly succumbed to alcohol poisoning” twice.
“I came out of my yearslong depression at just about the same time I started posting all that Columbine stuff,” she wrote. “I think it’s a sign.”
She wrote she started following the Columbine tag on the internet as research for a novel she was writing.
“I wasn’t even into Columbine until like these past few months … Though I had friends who were … I only started seriously researching it after when, for some reason, I felt the need to put a school-shooting into my novel.”
Her lawyer argued for leniency, saying the plot was “big talk” and akin to a miniature-golf player planning to play the Masters. It was noted Souvannarath had never fired a gun, yet was planning to use a 16-gauge single-lever shotgun, which would have required her to reload between shots. Her co-conspirator planned to use a hunting rifle.
On Christmas Day 2014, Souvannarath wrote that her mother had unknowingly given her “the perfect outfit to go NBK (Natural Born Killers, a Columbine reference). “NBK could be only a plane ride away.”
“You’d have to come here, though, because I’m the one with the guns,” her late co-conspirator wrote.
They discussed whether to do the shooting at a mall or a hospital. “The mall sounds like more fun overall,” Souvannarath wrote.