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Ex-Riverdale actor who killed Squamish mother planned Trudeau death, court hears

Ryan Grantham also thought of committing mass murder and had taken a shotgun to Simon Fraser University with thoughts of killing students and a professor, a court heard Monday.
Scales of justice at BC Supreme Court
Ryan Grantham is being sentenced for the March 2020 death of his mother, Barbara Waite.

Warning: This story contains distressing details.

The former child actor who shot his mother to death in their Squamish townhouse on March 31, 2020, loaded up his car with guns with a plan to drive to Ottawa and kill Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a B.C. court heard Monday.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kathleen Ker heard the evidence as sentencing submissions for Ryan Grantham began June 13. Grantham was known for his parts in popular TV series such as Riverdale, a show based on the Archie comics, as well as Supernatural and iZombie.

Ker also heard Grantham had considered mass killings, including one at Burnaby’s Simon Fraser University. On March 5, 2020, Grantham sat in his car at SFU with a shotgun.

Grantham pleaded guilty in March to second-degree murder following the death of his 64-year-old mother, Barbara Waite. An autopsy showed the cause of Waite’s death was a single gunshot wound to the head.

“He put the crosshairs on the back of her head, closed his eyes and pulled the trigger,” Crown prosecutor Michaela Donnelly said.

“I cared about her more than anything in the world,” Grantham told police. He called the killing callous.

The Crown is seeking a prison sentence of 17 to 19 years before he is eligible for parole.

Grantham sat quietly in the prisoner's box for the hearing, his lawyer occasionally showing him photo evidence he barely glanced at.

When videos he had made before and after the crime were shown, he was bowed, his head in his hands. He was not looking at the multiple courtroom screens as his video narration was heard. 

The case

Donnelly read the agreed facts in the case.

She said Grantham had considered shooting his mother several times before actually doing it. In his journal, he said he didn’t want her to live to know what he had become, believing himself to be a failure.

Donnelly said Grantham was concerned his mother would find out about his poor school performance and his marijuana smoking.

After the killing, the court heard Grantham went out and bought beer and marijuana and later went to bed. He covered his mother with a sheet.

He loaded up the car with weapons but left a note for whoever found his mother. He also lit candles and hung a rosary from the piano.

“I wanted to do something for her,” he said. “I robbed her of everything.”

It was sister Lisa Grantham who found Waite. She drove to Squamish after being unable to reach her mother or brother. Lisa found her mother under the sheet, the candles burning. She called police.

Her brother was nowhere to be found.

At about the same time, a Vancouver Police Department constable saw Grantham, who appeared upset. He was near the Graveley Street police headquarters.

When the officer approached, Grantham told him he had killed Waite with a 22-calibre weapon.

“Mr. Grantham said, ‘I killed my mum,’” Donnelly said.

That's when police arrested him.

In Grantham’s vehicle, officers found Google map directions to the Ottawa residence of the prime minister, guns, ammunition and Molotov cocktails as well as camping and survival gear. They also found a GoPro camera that Grantham had used to film the crime scene.

He had tried using one of the Molotov cocktails, he told police, “so if I went on a mass shooting ... I would have this experience [of throwing a Molotov cocktail].”

The journal

Donnelly read multiple entries from Grantham’s journal, which detailed depression, problems with schooling and procrastination, and anger against foreign students.

“Mr. Grantham’s contemporaneous account in the journal is very self-aware, very introspective,” Donnelly said, as well as very depressed and very angry.”

In it, he expressed approval of the film The Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix, a tale of an aspiring stand-up comedian and failed clown who slides into insanity and inspires a violent counter-cultural revolution.

Grantham praised the film’s handling for its portrayal of “the way society hits the other as well as those with mental illness.”

He later added, “I have feelings about being a serial killer rather than a mass murderer.”

Driving to Ottawa

In his plan to kill Trudeau, Grantham downloaded Google directions to get to Rideau Cottage.

“He was the only person I could think of, the most important person in Canada,” he told police.

“Killing Trudeau, that’s all I’ve got right now.”

But he soon realized it wasn’t a reasonable idea. When he reached the town of Hope, B.C., he turned back, heading west.

At one point, he considered climbing the Lions Gate Bridge and throwing Molotov cocktails before shooting people, court heard.

The videos

Donnelly played two videos Grantham had recorded. 

The first showed him in front of his bedroom mirror, aiming a firearm at the glass and walking through the house. 

The second was of him filming the crime scene. 

“I just killed my mom. I just killed my mom,” Grantham said on the second video. “I shot the only person who loved me in the back of the head.” 

Then, filming in the mirror, he said, “You thought you were so tough.” 

Victim impact statements

Lisa Grantham stood before the judge, crying as she read her victim impact statement, saying her brother took away her best friend. She said her mother was loving and caring, looking after her own mother while fighting cancer. 

“It breaks my heart she struggled so hard ... only to be murdered by her own son,” she said. “She was vulnerable and Ryan gave her no chance to defend herself. It pains me to know he was a danger to her life.” 
She and Waite’s sister said they feared his release from prison. 

“Words cannot express how horrific and gut-wrenching this has been to go through,” Lisa said, calling her brother’s behaviour “cold-blooded.” 

Coming submissions

Lawyers will be presenting case precedents and making arguments on what form of sentence Ker should craft for Grantham. 

Grantham began his career as a child actor at age nine. At 11, he was cast for a role in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, a 2009 film directed by Monty Python’s Flying Circus comedy team alumnus Terry Gilliam.

The sentencing is expected to continue through June 15.

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