Blenheim man not criminally responsible for killing his wife

Today in a Chatham courtroom, an elderly Blenheim man who shot his wife in the back of the head with his .38 revolver and then set their house on fire, was found not criminally responsible for her death.

Walter Ardis was 78 years-old when he killed his wife Margaret, age 73,  on March 24, 2016. The fire he set to the house at 58 Nichols Drive in Blenheim did about $150,000 worth of damage. His wife was discovered dead at the foot of the stairway to the basement of their home. She had been his caregiver after a series of strokes left him suffering with dementia. Walter Ardis had accused his wife of having an affair with a man at the local seniors centre only days earlier. His wife denied the affair.

Ardis had previously diagnosed mental problems, including multiple strokes that led to the deterioration of the frontal lobe of his brain. When a neighbour checked on the couple while investigating the fire, he found Ardis at the back of the home saying his wife had left the previous day at 4 p.m., then later said he didn’t know where she was and “Maybe she is in the basement.” An autopsy revealed his wife had not died in the fire, as she had no smoke in her lungs. She had been killed by a single shot to the left part of the back of her head and her body smelled strongly of gasoline. Police found her at the bottom of the stairs in the basement on March 26, 2016. A .38 handgun, belonging to Walter Ardis was found in an attached garage, with five bullets still in the chamber and a single empty casing. Three points of ignition for the fire were found inside the home, one in the kitchen and two in the garage.

Dr. Arun Prakash, of the Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health has treated Ardis since November 16, 2016 and testified as an expert witness. Prakash said that although Ardis knew what he was doing, he was unable to appreciate his actions as either wrong or illegal. Prakash also testified that Ardis was mentally fit enough to stand trial. Prakash said Ardis suffered from vascular dementia and paranoid delusions, including that a Hell’s Angel had killed his wife. Ardis never admitted to Prakash he had shot his wife and had suggested firefighters had killed her.

Ardis was returned to the Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health where within the next 45 days he will face a disposition hearing that determines his fate.

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