CALGARY — The apparent suicide of an inmate at a New Brunswick prison earlier this week is cause for a bittersweet celebration, according to the mother of the young girl he killed.
The Correctional Service of Canada said Gleason Bennett Williams died Thursday in Dorchester Penitentiary, where he was serving a life sentence for second-degree murder.
Williams, a native of Prince Edward Island, strangled and slit the throat of Shannon Dawn Morrissette, 5, in his basement suite in southeast Calgary in 1992.
The girl was hearing-impaired and couldn’t speak.
The circumstances of the inmate’s death are still being investigated.
“I know it sounds bad but I’ll celebrate with my family,” said the girl’s mother, Janet Morrissette, in an interview from her home in Regina.
“It’s lifted, it really, really has … the horror’s over.”
Two weeks ago, Morrissette faced Williams at the penitentiary during a hearing that ultimately denied the 54-year-old killer escorted day passes.
Morrissette said she’s grateful she had the chance to speak to the man who dumped her daughter’s lifeless body into a dumpster before he met his own end.
“I’m so glad the suicide didn’t happen before I got to read a victim impact statement. He heard what Shannon might have been and could have been,” she said.
Even though Williams’s request for escorted day passes had been denied, Morrissette’s family dreaded future hearings and ultimate freedom for the man deemed this month by parole board officials a risk to reoffend.
Williams would have been eligible to apply for full parole in 2012.
When she saw the call display on her phone Friday morning, indicating corrections officials were calling, Morrissette said she braced herself for more agony.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, he’s appealing,’ ” said Morrissette. “Now I won’t have to worry about him causing the same pain to another family like ours.”
The family’s annual pilgrimage to Shannon’s grave just outside Calgary in August will take on a different tone, added the mom.
“It’s going to be different, not so heavy,” Morrissette said.
Shannon was playing behind her home on Aug. 15, 1992. Williams strangled the girl and slashed her throat with a knife. Her body was found in a duffle bag the next morning in a nearby trash bin.