February 17, 2015 / 6:53 PM / 4 years ago

Valentine's Day massacre plot suspects appear in court

HALIFAX (Reuters) - A Canadian man and American woman accused of plotting a shopping mall massacre in the Atlantic Canadian city of Halifax appeared in court on Tuesday as details emerged about their plans for a Columbine-like shooting spree.

Randall Steven Shepherd, 20, arrives at Halifax Provincial Court in Halifax, Nova Scotia February 17, 2015. REUTERS/Darren Pittman

The 20-year-old man and 23-year-old woman, who are believed to have met online, did not speak as they were arraigned on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and arson as well as unlawful communication of a threat “through social media” to cause harm or death.

Police arrested the pair at the Halifax airport on Friday after receiving a tip about their plans to shoot as many people as possible at the Halifax Shopping Centre on Valentine’s Day, then kill themselves. A third man linked to the plot was found dead in a house in Halifax.

They were also charged with weapons offences and their next court appearance was set for March 6. They did not seek bail but the prosecutor said they may do so in a future hearing.

The two men were childhood friends in Halifax who met the woman online, and all three admired the teenagers who killed 12 students and a teacher during a high school shooting spree in 1999 in Columbine, Colorado, according to media reports.

Randall Shepherd, 20, wore a black leather jacket for the court appearance, his long blond hair unkempt. Lindsay Souvannarath, 23, a petite woman with long dark hair, smiled briefly as she sat.

They were both represented by the same duty counsel, but the prosecutor said she expected they would seek their own lawyer or lawyers in the coming days.

Prosecutor Shauna MacDonald told reporters after the court appearance that the conspiracy charges stem from the fact that while no act was committed, there had been an agreement to commit the crimes.

“The burden in any criminal charge for the police is reasonable grounds to believe an offense has been committed,” she said. “The basis of conspiracy is an agreement, so it can be a conversation.”

The two were arrested at Halifax airport after Souvannarath arrived from Illinois and was met by Shepherd, said police, who are investigating the death of the 19-year-old man.

“There were three long-barrelled rifles seized during the investigation and all three were seized at the residence... where the 19-year-old was found deceased,” Nova Scotia RCMP Commanding Officer Brian Brennan told reporters on Saturday.

Canadian media identified him as James Gamble and several reported he had shot himself. Police declined to confirm those details.

Blogs and a Facebook profile linked to Souvannarath featured dark images of death and Nazism and an image with the words: “Valentine’s Day It’s going down.”

Writing by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Alan Crosby

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