Current Problems

Justice (25-42)

James Smith Cree Nation killer showed severe psychopathic traits, forensic psychologist testifies

February 29, 2024

Jury deliberating after week-long public coroner’s inquest into Myles Sanderson’s death 

Photos of the victims of the mass casualty homicides in James Smith Cree Nation and nearby Weldon, Sask. are sitting on a table in Melfort. RCMP can be seen in the background presenting a timeline to media.
The RCMP Major Crimes Unit presented a preliminary timeline last year in Melfort, Sask., of the 2022 mass stabbing on James Smith Cree Nation. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

CBC News: Mass killer Myles Sanderson was not just running from police in the high-speed pursuit that led to his arrest — he was likely on his way to finish his mission and kill his former common-law partner, a forensic criminal psychologist testified Thursday.

“Pumped himself up with cocaine, stole a vehicle and moved toward other potential targets,” Dr. Matthew Logan said, quoting from his report. Logan had never met Sanderson, but co-authored a post-mortem behavioural analysis based on his investigation.

Logan was the final witness at the week-long public coroner’s inquest, which is focused on determining how, when and where Sanderson died. Following Logan’s testimony, Coroner Robert Kennedy charged the jury just after noon on Thursday to begin their deliberations.

When the jurors return, they will also be given an opportunity to provide recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future.

Sanderson had a plan, forensic psychologist testifies

Sanderson, 32, had developed somewhat of a plan before he killed 10 people in his home community of James Smith Cree Nation and one person in the nearby village of Weldon, Sask., Logan said. 

He targeted people who did him wrong and those connected with the Terror Squad gang, Logan testified, as a mission-oriented offender.

Those types of offenders typically do not kill non-targets — like the woman whose truck Sanderson stole near Wakaw, Sask. — unless they get in their way. After the theft, Sanderson led police into oncoming traffic southbound on Highway 11, toward Saskatoon, as they chased after him.

While he could have been searching for refuge with his father in Saskatoon, Logan believes Sanderson was on his way to kill his former common-law partner, and the mother of his children, Vanessa Burns.

Logan testified that Sanderson’s recent violence toward Burns likely triggered his plan to massacre people at James Smith Cree Nation.

As he drove into oncoming traffic on Highway 11 at breakneck speeds, forcing dozens of vehicles to the shoulder or the ditch, Sanderson was ambivalent to death, Logan testified. 

“It’s really a voluntary self-killing where you’re doing so knowingly, recklessly but not purposefully,” Logan said.

Sanderson showed severe psychopathic traits, Logan testified. Compared to other inmates scored at Canadian institutions, he ranked in the 94th percentile. 

Delving into Sanderson’s past

Logan noted a report from the Saskatchewan Penitentiary that Sanderson had thought of suicide. 

He testified that he believes Sanderson likely didn’t mean to overdose on cocaine — referencing the testimony of a forensic pathologist given on Tuesday that marked an overdose as his cause of death — but that he could have taken the substance with reckless regard.

Logan’s behavioural analysis included examining photos of the crime scenes, Sanderson’s past and interviews with family members of those killed and others impacted.

Coroner’s counsel Tim Hawryluk said the behavioural analysis report Logan co-authored is an “extremely rare” request among public inquests. 

Logan testified that Sanderson’s childhood was “rife with abuse and instability.” He also started using drugs when he was 13 and, in recent years, used cocaine “considerably.”

Week-long inquest

The inquest also heard from the physician, Dr. William Papenfus, who called Sanderson’s time of death at Royal University Hospital at 4:39 p.m. CST on Sept. 7, 2022.

He testified that when Sanderson arrived at the hospital — while flatlining for the journey from the scene off Highway 11 between Rosthern and Hague, Sask. — a trauma room was waiting for him. 

Papenfus said doctors continued life-saving measures. 

Doctors were told Sanderson may have ingested some sort of white powder and that he had rapidly deteriorated from an excited state before his cardiac arrest. He said doctors confirmed with an ultrasound that Sanderson had no heart activity.

WATCH | Jurors at Myles Sanderson inquest hear from officer who forced killer’s stolen truck into ditch: 

Jurors at Myles Sanderson inquest hear from officer who forced killer’s stolen truck into ditch

14 hours ago

Duration 1:40 Constable Heidi Marshall described chasing Myles Sanderson into oncoming traffic on a major Saskatchewan highway and the decision she made that ended the chase. Sanderson killed 11 people at James Smith Cree Nation and the neighbouring village of Weldon in September 2022. CBC’s Dan Zakreski has the details.

Since Monday, jurors heard testimony from Saskatchewan Mounties recounting the harrowing police pursuit, paramedics who testified about their life-saving efforts, and opinions from a forensic pathologist and toxicologist.


Dayne Patterson, Reporter

Dayne Patterson is a reporter for CBC News in Saskatchewan and is based in Saskatoon. He has a master’s degree in journalism with an interest in data reporting and Indigenous affairs. Reach him at