Years of torment for the family of Shannon Dawn Morrissette ended Thursday when the little girl’s killer hanged himself in his prison cell at Dorchester Institution in New Brunswick.
Gleason Bennett Williams, 54, killed himself just two weeks after the National Parole Board turned down his request for temporary passes to visit his family. He was serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 20 years for slitting five-year-old Shannon’s throat in 1992. It was never conclusively proven, but he likely sexually assaulted her, too.
Shannon’s mother and a collection of aunts and uncles went to Dorchester to deliver victim impact statements at Williams’ hearing. Speaking with them today, they told me they’re relieved to not have to repeat that heart-wrenching exercise ever again.
As recently as two weeks ago, Williams denied any responsibility for his actions and claimed the killing was an accident.
I haven’t heard yet if Williams left behind a suicide note. It would be interesting to know if Williams killed himself after belatedly facing up to the guilt and shame of what he did — or if his suicide was a final, twisted protestation of his innocence following the parole board’s rejection.