An 18-year-old Inuk man is facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of an Ottawa librarian, after she was attacked while volunteering at the Christian Science Reading Room last week.
Tyler Hikoalok briefly appeared in court by video on Monday following his arrest the previous day.
Elisabeth Salm was working at the downtown reading centre on May 24 when police say she was attacked. Officers responded to the call at 141 Laurier Ave. West in downtown Ottawa at around 1 p.m., where the 59-year-old was found with life-threatening injuries.
The following day, police reported she succumbed to her injuries.
The allegation against Hikoalok have yet to be proven in court.
Defence lawyer Michael Smith said Hikoalok is stressed and confused and it’s too early to determine whether he will request a psychiatric assessment.
“We’re still waiting for the disclosure and that, I imagine, will tell me a lot more and will determine what course of action would be best for Tyler,” Smith said.
Salm’s family attended the hearing and later read a statement to reporters, expressing gratitude and requesting privacy at this time.
“Elisabeth’s family thanks the many people who have expressed support towards us these last few days,” read Lauren Young, Salm’s brother-in-law, while acknowledging the Ottawa police’s work on the investigation.
Originally from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Hikoalok has been in and out of foster care homes since age nine, according to an online profile on the website of Tr1be Music, a studio program that tours high schools and aims to help Indigenous artists break into the music scene.
Justin Holness, founder of Tr1be Music who has worked with Hikoalok in studio over the past two years, said he’s in “shock” by the news. While it’s still unclear whether Hikoalak suffers from mental health issues, Holness pointed to mental health problems and intergenerational trauma as “some serious challenges that our Indigenous people are faced with.”
“The music program was one of the outlets for his therapy and trying to find that balance within himself,” he said. “I worked with him once, sometimes twice a week in the studio, trying to help him get whatever he was holding inside out through a positive outlet.”
Hikoalok’s time in the studio dwindled over the past three to six months, said Holness, and he stopped participating in the program. But he did show up on Wednesday – a day before the assault.
“He’s never fully tried to speak to me about anything,” said Holness. “He’s never opened up, so it’s hard for me to provide support.”
Hikoalok, who’s also known by his hip hop name Ty Millz, is an aspiring artist who has recorded some of his own songs, which Holness describes as “positive” and free of swear words.
“If you really break down the lyrics, he was trying to find that positive place and the studio was providing that,” he said.
“I don’t know him this way. I never would have anticipated and expected any of this to happen.”
Hikoalok is due to appear in court again on June 5.