Guelph webcam suicide attempt: Student pleads guilty to arson
A University of Guelph student who barricaded himself in his room and started a fire – while streaming his suicide attempt to a worldwide audience – was sentenced Wednesday to three years’ probation.
The student was a third-year criminal justice student and residence assistant at the school.
In the hours before the November 2013 fire, according to a statement of facts filed in court, the student announced his intentions online.
“I am willing to be a hero on cam for you all,” he posted.
“Tonight I will be ending my own life.”
Later in the day, the 21-year-old began streaming events from his bedroom in Dundas Hall to an online audience of 200 people – some of whom egged him on.
He was seen plugging in a toaster filled with paper.
Minutes later, smoke was visible in the frame.
A friend, concerned after the student was unable to complete his residence assistant shift, went to check on him – unaware of what was going on – and found that the door to his bedroom was hot to the touch.
Flames were jetting out from below the door, and the man inside the room was yelling for help.
Firefighters broke down the door and found the student inside.
He was taken to hospital in serious but stable condition, and needed surgery for burns to his hand.
Two police officers were also treated in hospital for smoke inhalation, and damage to the building was estimated at $55,000.
Court heard that the student was depressed, and the medication he was using at the time was ineffective.
Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to arson.
“I am glad I am alive to deal with my mistakes,” he said.
Defence lawyer Ranney Hintsa called Justice Norman Douglas’ judgement an “excellent decision.”
“My client is pleased with the decision … but would have been accepting of whatever decision the court made,” she said.
“He had this one moment that was governed or driven by mental health issues. It doesn’t define him as a person.”
The student still hopes to become a lawyer, and continues his studies through online classes.
He is only allowed on the University of Guelph grounds with written permission.