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Port Alberni mother who shot son to be sentenced in February

In October, Samantha Dittmer was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of her son, Jesse McPhee.
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Samantha Jesselynn Dittmer was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of her son, Jesse McPhee. JESSE McPHEE VIA INSTAGRAM

A Port Alberni woman who shot and killed her son two years ago will be sentenced in mid-February.

In October, Samantha Dittmer was acquitted of the second-degree murder of her son Jesse McPhee, but convicted of the lesser offence of manslaughter, based on careless use of a firearm.

McPhee, a 37-year-old longshoreman, was shot and killed at point-blank range with a hunting rifle in their shared home on Aug. 29, 2021.

The judge has allowed Dittmer, 63, to remain in the community under her bail conditions. A presentence report with a forensic psychiatric component was ordered to assist at her sentencing hearing, set for Feb. 16 at the Port Alberni courthouse.

There is no minimum sentence for manslaughter, except when it is committed with a firearm. In that case, the minimum sentence is four years.

The manslaughter verdict means the jury found Dittmer did not intend to kill her son, but her handling of the rifle was a marked departure from the standard of care of a reasonable person.

Dittmer calling the shooting “a tragic accident.” Defence lawyer Brian Coleman told the jury that Dittmer never intended to harm her son. She simply did not want the gun in her home and decided to make a symbolic gesture by returning it to him.

The Crown argued that Dittmer intended to kill McPhee when she shot him with the rifle.

ldickson@timescolonist.com