Brett Ryan pleads guilty to crossbow deaths of mother, 2 brothers


Brett Ryan pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder on Friday for killing his mother and two of his brothers in last year’s Toronto crossbow slayings. New court documents show how the incident was sparked by Ryan’s fear that lies to his fiancée would be exposed. 

Ryan, 36, appeared in the Ontario Court of Justice in Scarborough in front of Justice McMahon this week and was sentenced to three concurrent sentences of life in prison plus a 10-year concurrent sentence for the attempted murder of a third brother. He has no chance of parole for 25 years.

Feared lies would be exposed

The Agreed Statement of Facts provided by Ryan’s lawyer shows that Ryan was concerned that his mother, Susan Ryan, 66, would expose his lies to his fiancée and feared she would cut off support to him.

Ryan had lied about graduating from university and having a job, although his fiancée was aware of his criminal convictions.

Brett Ryan

The Agreed Statement of Facts shows Ryan was concerned that his mother would expose his lies to his fiancée that he had a job and feared she would not longer support him. (Toronto Police Service )

Days before the incident last August, Ryan placed a crossbow in the garage of his mother’s home near Markham Road and Eglinton Avenue East in Scarborough and set up elaborate devices at the Queen’s Quay residence he shared with his fiancée meant to create an internet footprint while the crimes were committed.

In one, Ryan connected a timer to a fan with an attached wooden spoon that would hit the Enter button on a laptop causing a series of videos to play on YouTube.

Another device holding an iPad and iPhone was setup to send emails. It used a similar setup where a stylus attached to fans on timers would send pre-written emails once the timer went off.

Confronted his mother

Neither of the devices were used. Ryan has training in information technology and had told his financée he was working in the field.

On the morning of the incident, Ryan planned to confront his mother, but as the argument became heated his mother called Ryan’s brother Christopher, 42, to help, and Ryan went to the garage to use the crossbow to threaten her.

Ryan then stabbed his mother with a bolt — the short heavy arrow from a crossbow — in the garage and strangled her.

Christopher Ryan arrived to find Brett in the garage. He was then shot in the neck with an arrow and placed under a tarp with his mother in the garage.

crossbow deaths crime scene

Toronto police and paramedics respond to the scene last summer. (Pascal Marchand)

His brother Alexander, 29, soon arrived, began another confrontation with Brett and was stabbed with an arrow. He collapsed on the driveway and was found there by police.

His brother Leigh, 39, heard the altercation and went outside to see what happened, then he ran back into the house to call for help. Brett assaulted Leigh, who was able to escape and run across the street for help.

Brett Ryan was arrested outside of the family home, and his mother and two brothers were pronounced dead at the scene.

Past as bank robber

Prior to the grisly slayings last August, Ryan turned to robbing banks in 2009 to pay more than $60,000 in debts he’d largely accrued in two romantic relationships, according to parole and bankruptcy documents. 

Ryan was diagnosed with depression when he had psychological counselling during the 15 months he spent in jail and reports said depression over his debt burden was a factor in the robberies.

He was termed an apparent model prisoner who was considered at low risk to re-offend, before he was released on day parole in April 2010, Parole Board of Canada documents show.

Soon to be married

Ryan was charged exactly three weeks before he was to be married. 

It’s unclear exactly when Ryan met his fiancée, but it is believed the couple met before Ryan’s parole would have ended. 

Engagement photo for Brett Ryan

Brett Ryan and his fiancée were to be married on Sept. 16. (Facebook)

As a condition of his release after the robbery conviction, he would have had to report the relationship to his parole supervisor, because the board considered a past breakup a trigger for the robberies.

There’s no indication in the parole board documents whether Ryan reported the relationship to his parole officer.



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