A woman accused of killing her son in Port Alberni told a community mental health nurse that she was passing her son a gun when it went off accidentally, killing him on Aug. 29, 2021.
“She said she was devastated by these events,” registered nurse Leigh Morrow testified Monday at Samantha Dittmer’s trial for the second-degree murder of her son, Jesse McPhee.
In August 2021, Morrow was working with Port Alberni’s mental health and substance abuse services, helping people in crisis. On Aug. 19, she followed up on a referral from Dittmer’s physician, requesting a psychiatric consult and community counselling for his patient. The doctor’s notes indicated Dittmer had several months of worsening anxiety and daily panic attacks, Morrow testified.
Morrow phoned Dittmer to see if she would like to follow up and complete an assessment, but the call went to voicemail and Morrow left a message.
On Sept. 14, Dittmer called Morrow and told her she’d been released from the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women after being arrested for the “accidental shooting and killing of her son at their shared home,” Morrow testified, referring to her notes.
“I was trying to be thorough and detailed when I composed this note because of the complexity of the situation and managing whether we would continue to provide service to her,” she testified.
Dittmer told her that McPhee had been gathering and preparing weapons because he was being targeted by his ex-wife’s boyfriend and had already received significant head and spinal injuries during an assault. Dittmer said she was passing him a gun when it went off, killing him, Morrow testified.
Since the shooting, her son’s girlfriend, Brandy Kazakoff had been living in Dittmer’s home and accessing her bank accounts, Morrow said she was told. Dittmer also complained that she couldn’t go to her home because Kazakoff was a witness and Dittmer was not allowed to have contact with her.
Morrow testified that she wasn’t sure if the community response team would continue to help Dittmer. Morrow contacted her supervisor and Dittmer’s bail supervisor and was advised that Dittmer would be followed by forensic psychiatric services.
Morrow said that she phoned Dittmer back and told her about the change, but she could still access urgent community support. She gave Dittmer the number of the crisis line.
RCMP Const. Brian Vose was also on the stand, testifying that he examined both Dittmer and McPhee’s cellphones for phone calls and text messages.
The jury saw a number of angry texts between Dittmer and her son. On Aug. 1, Dittmer told McPhee in capital letters, to get out of her house this minute and never come back.
“Get the [expletive] out,” she texted.
McPhee, 37, replied that he would be gone soon, back to being homeless.
“Have fun going crazy,” he texted.
In other texts, Dittmer told McPhee he didn’t deserve her help anymore. She called him a “psycho little [expletive].”
“Have fun with demonized dementia,” McPhee texted. “I am moving out you maniac.”
On the early morning of Aug. 29, Dittmer sent her son a text, telling him she was just waking up and was going to put on the kettle. She sent the text with a heart emoji.
At 3 p.m., McPhee texted his mother: “You are mentally ill and I love you. I think you should seek help.” At 6:08 p.m., Dittmer called 911.