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Judge orders mental health assessment for Manitoba man accused of killing family

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WINNIPEG -

A judge has ordered a Manitoba man accused of killing five family members, including his three young children, to undergo a mental health assessment to determine if he is fit to stand trial.

Ryan Manoakeesick appeared by video in front of provincial court Judge Donald Slough on Monday after the accused's lawyer requested the assessment.

The 29-year-old, who was handcuffed and wearing jail clothing, did not say anything during his court appearance.

His lawyer, Morgan Lawrence, told Slough the defence team has met Manoakeesick a few times and determined it was appropriate to ask for an assessment. Lawrence did not go into further detail about the conversations, citing confidentiality.

Manoakeesick is charged with five counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his common-law partner, Amanda Clearwater; their three children, Bethany, Jayven and Isabella Manoakeesick; and Clearwater's niece Myah-Lee Gratton.

Police discovered the bodies of the family members earlier this month at multiple crime scenes in and around Carman, Man., a town of 3,000 people southwest of Winnipeg.

Crown prosecutor Christian Vanderhooft said his office was expecting to receive disclosure from Manoakeesick's lawyers, and suggested it was too soon for the defence to ask for an assessment.

"(There) has to be some basis for ordering that," he said.

Slough told the court he was "satisfied" there is reason to order the assessment, which is to be completed within the next month.

Manoakeesick was convicted of mischief in 2019. A sentencing hearing heard he struggled with methamphetamine addiction and had anxiety and depression, as well as other mental health issues.

He has been in custody since his arrest two weeks ago.

   This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2023.

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