Geneva woman pleads guilty in Canadian mall massacre plot
A Geneva woman surprised prosecutors and pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit murder on Valentine's Day 2015 at a Canadian shopping center.
Lindsay Souvannarath, 25, entered the plea in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
"It was unexpected," Chris Hansen, spokesman for Nova Scotia's public prosecution service, said of the plea at a pretrial appearance.
Souvannarath's trial was to start in May.
A co-conspirator, 22-year-old Randall Shepherd of Halifax, pleaded guilty to the same charge in November 2016 and received 10 years in prison.
Little information about Souvannarath's case has been available due to a ban on publication of what is presented at pretrial hearings. Canadian law allows judges to enact such bans in an effort to not taint the pool of potential jurors for a trial.
Some information, however, did come out in an agreed statement presented when Shepherd pleaded guilty. Souvannarath will provide a written or oral statement of facts at her sentencing, according to Hansen.
According to Shepherd's statement, he was friends with James Gamble, 19, of Halifax. Gamble and Shepherd were fascinated with death and morbidity. Gamble began an online relationship with Souvannarath, over their fascination with mass murders and her interest in Nazism. The statement said they shared intimate, explicit photos.
Gamble and Souvannarath planned the attack. Shepherd said he would not kill anyone but agreed to help make Molotov cocktails and to pick up Souvannarath from the Halifax International Airport when Gamble was delayed.
Shepherd planned to kill himself, or have Gamble kill him, the day before the attack.
According to the Shepherd statement, Gamble and Souvannarath discussed what weapons to use, how much ammunition to bring, the pros and cons of locations, whether to taunt their victims first, whether to photograph the dead victims and post them to the internet, what clothing to wear, whether to wear masks, and whether police would first try to save victims before turning their attention to the duo. They also developed a musical soundtrack for the killing, and Souvannarath scheduled a Tumblr post about the massacre, to appear Feb. 15.
On Feb. 13, police received a Crime Stoppers tip about the plot. When they went to arrest Gamble, he killed himself. Shepherd and Souvannarath were arrested at the airport.
"The plan was pretty spectacular," Hansen said.
Souvannarath has been in jail since her arrest. She did not apply for bail.
Hansen said sentencing is Oct. 5. Souvannarath's attorney and prosecutors will present recommendations. The maximum term is life in prison, which could be affected by factors including Canadian case law, facts of the case and her acceptance of responsibility.
"The one big one is taking responsibility and relieving everyone of the burden of a lengthy trial," Hansen said.
Geneva police said they had no contact with Souvannarath when she lived in Geneva.
In a 2015 Daily Herald interview, Geneva High School classmate Sabrina Szigeti said Souvannarath was known for her interest in Nazis and crime. A pencil drawing Souvannarath did, of a ghoulish Nazi character, appeared on a page about a role-playing game club in the 2009 yearbook.
"She was really into writing and really into making art of Nazis," Szigeti said. Souvannarath would play a Nazi ghost during the games. It was not a normal character; others usually portrayed elves, dwarves and giants.
Szigeti said Souvannarath became upset when her German-language teacher refused to let her write an essay about a Norwegian black metal musician who had murdered someone. Souvannarath admired the musician, who espouses white nationalism.
Souvannarath is a 2014 graduate of Coe College, where she studied English and creative writing.