Warning: this story contains disturbing details.
Michael MacKay told police officers that his wife Cindy probably died by suicide, but the truth is that he gave her a fatal dose of poison hidden in a Gatorade mug.
Cindy became seriously ill at her rural home on February 7, 2020, and died in hospital a few days later. Her husband Michael was charged with first degree murder more than a year after her death, despite repeatedly telling police he was not to blame.
Now, the story of what Michael actually did to Cindy has come out.
Michael pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Monday in the Court of King’s Bench in Battleford, Sask.
“It’s almost four years since Cindy was murdered and today we finally got some justice. The terrible things [Michael] make her finally know,” said Cindy’s brother, Tyler Mack, after the hearing.
“He’s lied to a lot of people about what happened to Cindy, so it’s a great relief for all of us that the record is finally being set straight.”
There was no trial due to Michael’s guilty plea, but details of what happened were revealed in an agreed statement of facts.
Cindy and Michael married in 2005 after meeting at a church in Saskatoon. The couple had three children and in 2015 they moved to Cindy’s family farm, where she had grown up.
Cindy continued to work as a registered nurse after they settled on the farm, until her youngest daughter suffered a “major accident.” After that, she became a full-time caretaker and homemaker while Michael handled the cattle operation on the farm.
Terrible messages before murder
Although they appeared to be a typical small town family from the outside, investigators found that Michael had been predicting Cindy’s fate to some of his female acquaintances.
In December 2019, Michael told a close female friend that by February 2020 he would need a place to “lay low”.
A few months before Cindy died, Michael started having sex with a woman he met on a “hookup site.” On February 6, 2020, the woman texted him asking about Cindy’s health.
He responded by saying “it will probably be goodbye in the next few days.”
On the morning of February 7, 2020, Cindy was feeling sick so Michael took two of the children to school. When he returned home, he grabbed a mug from the pantry and mixed Cindy a drink from a Gatorade powder container. He added “an immeasurable but deadly quantity of strychnine.”
The poison had been on the farm because Cindy’s parents used it for pests. Doctors say it is a very painful way to die.
Shortly after drinking the laced drink, Cindy went into serious medical distress and Michael made frantic, emotional calls to 911. Their youngest daughter was told to stay outside while Cindy screamed in pain and arched back as her muscles contracted.
She was taken to hospital in Battleford, then airlifted to a hospital in Saskatoon, but never recovered. She was taken off life support on February 12, 2020.
Hospital staff called the police, saying the death appeared to be suspicious. Michael suggested to the police that it could have been suicide.
According to Oryn Holm, senior Crown prosecutor, murder by strychnine is extremely rare.
There was no direct evidence, such as eyewitness testimony, but the Crown developed its theory based on a series of suspicious circumstances, ultimately charging Michael with first degree murder.
He pleaded to the lesser offense of second degree murder.
Michael MacKay spoke briefly in court.
“I acknowledge all my many failures, as a husband, as a father, and I want the court to know that I am truly sorry.”
Justice ML Dovell accepted a joint sentencing submission from the defense and the Crown, ordering a sentence of life in prison, with eligibility for parole in 10 years.
“Ten years is not even close to enough time to repay what he has taken from us. He should be in prison for the rest of his life,” said Cindy’s brother, Tyler Mack.
The tragedy has greatly affected Cindy’s loved ones and their community.
On Monday, dozens of people were present at the court hearing to show support for Cindy and her family – so much so that several had to listen from the hallway and others sat in the jury box. Many were dressed in red, Cindy’s favorite colour.
“Cindy was a truly wonderful person and a wonderful mother to her three children. She was kind and compassionate. She loved animals and adopted as many as she could. She was well liked in the community,” said her brother Tyler Mack.
“The world was a better place with her in it.”