More than four years after Tim McLean was killed on a Greyhound bus, his slaying continues to trouble Manitobans.
That was evident during the recent court case of a mentally ill woman who stood accused of threatening to behead a fellow Greyhound bus passenger.
The woman denied making the threat to behead, and on Thursday a judge ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that she had.
But not before the woman was called to the stand to make her denial, and it became evident just how seriously the court takes such matters given the McLean case.
“You understand that that’s a fairly sensitive topic… and people would be sensitive to receive that sort of threat,” Crown attorney Grant Hughes asked the woman during cross-examination.
“Mmm hmm,” replied the accused, Jamie Linda Sheschuk.
Sheschuk, 32, pleaded guilty on Sept. 27 to uttering threats and breach of a bail order which required her to live in her hometown, The Pas, on a curfew.
She has been in custody since the evening of Sept. 1, when RCMP were called to the Neepawa bus depot.
It was alleged that Sheschuk had threatened to kill another passenger and cut his head off because she was annoyed by his crying child.
Sheschuk denied that she threatened to cut anyone’s head off and various witness accounts varied on what was actually said.
That prompted Combs to set Thursday’s hearing to determine exactly what was said.
Given history, threatening to cut someone’s head off on a bus would be considered especially serious and could bring a tougher sentence.
Tim McLean was killed and beheaded by Vince Li aboard a Greyhound bus near Portage la Prairie in July 2008.
Hughes pointed out that the incident on the bus that involved Sheschuk happened a short distance north of where McLean was killed about four years before.
Thursday’s hearing featured testimony from the driver of the bus which had been bound for Flin Flon.
He said the outburst happened near Neepawa.
A young child, who was ill and just out of hospital, had been crying since the westbound bus passed Portage.
The driver said Sheschuk shouted to the parents, “Shut your f-----g kid up!”
Minutes later, the child’s distraught father approached the driver to complain that Sheschuk had threatened to kill his family and cut off their heads.
“I was kind of shocked that someone would say that on the bus after what happened,” the driver said, referring to the McLean case.
The driver called RCMP and who intercepted the bus after it stopped at Neepawa.
Sheschuk took the stand to deny making the threat to behead the family. Rather, she said she threatened to cut off another body part after the father threatened to kill her.
Sheschuk recalled saying: “I’ll kill you too… I’ll cut your dick off and throw it out the window.” She also admitted that she’d threatened to throw the child out the window.
Court heard Sheschuk suffers from depression and anxiety and an undiagnosed mental illness, possibly bipolar disorder, and she gets aggravated easily. She had stopped taking her medication, and at the time of the incident she had a migraine and upset stomach.
She’d travelled from her home in The Pas to Winnipeg and was on her way home after a failed effort to see a psychiatrist. In Winnipeg, she’d tried to admit herself to hospital but was turned away due to lack of space.
Hughes, who suggested Sheschuk’s denial was an attempt to backpedal, asked for her to be sentenced to four to six months in jail, noting that she’d already spent about 2 1/2 months in pre-sentence custody.
Given his client’s version of events, defence lawyer Philip Sieklicki suggested a sentence of 75 days time served.
The father of the crying child lives in a remote community where the only road out of town is closed. His failure to attend court meant he couldn’t corroborate the bus driver’s testimony, so Combs said he had to accept Sheschuk’s version of the threat — that is, the one in which she threatened to cut off the victim’s penis.
Combs sentenced her to a total of 90 days in jail minus 76 days credit. The remaining 14 days in jail will be followed by 18 months probation.
It appears Sheschuk won’t be released once her sentence expires, as Combs revoked her bail for other charges she faces in The Pas.