What the court never heard about Ottawa’s twin terrorists who claim to be Algonquin

Exclusive audio-tape recordings make up this story, along with confidential RCMP documents.

(Ashton Larmond, left, and his twin brother Carlos.)

Kenneth Jackson and Gary Dimmock
APTN National News
Ashton Larmond was a little boy when he walked in the bathroom of his home and saw a man trying to drown his mom in the tub.

He had her by the hair plunging her head in the water.

Then she saw Ashton – standing at the door.

“She looked at me,” he said. “I‎ remember the look on her face.

“She said, ‘It’s okay, sweetheart.’”

He ran away and police came.

He fought tears recalling the memory of his childhood.

It’s just one of many he and his twin brother Carlos Larmond recall growing up in – as they call it – the gutter of Ottawa.

That’s before the entire country knew their names after they were nabbed by RCMP on terrorism charges in January 2015 for wanting to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Both pleaded guilty in August – Ashton was sentenced to 17 years and Carlos, seven.

The judge likened their extremist Islamic belief to worshiping the devil.

But the judge heard little of the life the brothers came from.

That’s because there was no pre-sentence report or, in the twins case, a report that highlights Gladue principles – something the Supreme Court of Canada said all lower courts must take into account when the liberty of an Indigenous person is at stake.

The brothers claim to be Algonquin and were interviewed by a Gladue report writer shortly after they were arrested.

Recordings of those interviews have never been heard – not by the RCMP or the twins’ lawyers – until now.

The exclusive recordings make up this story, along with confidential RCMP documents, obtained by APTN National News and the Ottawa Citizen that show how two Ottawa kids got swept up in the madness of ISIL.

Ashton and Carlos Larmond were born about 18 minutes apart on Nov. 21, 1990 in Ottawa.

Their mother Michelle Ruthven lives in Ottawa but hails from Texas and, as the brothers put it, is “all-American.”

Their father Anthony Larmond is from Pembroke, Ont., but grew up in Ottawa. His family line can be traced to the Algonquin in the Ottawa Valley, and the boys, despite now being Muslim, identify as Algonquin and obtained membership cards with the non-status Algonquins of Ontario – a group fighting the federal government for land in the valley.

Almost from the beginning the boys arrived into a world “set up for failure.”

Dad was a drug dealer who became a drug addict. He robbed banks to pay for his habit.

He just wasn’t any good at it.

He has spent most of his life behind bars. In fact, when his sons were arrested he was in a halfway house in Toronto on his latest bank robbery conviction. He broke his parole shortly after and blamed his kids for it.

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(Carlos speaks about his father in prison to Gladue report writer Mark Marsolais. Caution: strong language.)

Their mother struggled raising two “hyper boys” and moved them around a lot. From Ottawa to Texas, then to Oshawa and back to the Ottawa area.

Both of them recall not having much, and when in Oshawa they would eat old potato chips from dumpsters. Early school life saw them in special needs classes from Grade 4 to 8.

“Food was never around. That was a luxury for us,” Carlos says on audio-tape. “A family is like a luxury for me and people take it for granted. These people in this prison (Ottawa’s local jail where they were held at the time) have a family, a father, grandparents are all connected. These criminals – and these losers – and I’m like what is wrong with you? You have something I never had that I would trade everything in the planet for.”

Carlos is haunted by memories of when he was with his mom – where he and his brother suffered unspeakable abuse by men they looked to for guidance.

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When they were both about 12 they said their mom wanted nothing to do with them. They went to live with their grandmother Linda Brennan, their father’s mother, in Ottawa’s rough Overbrook neighbourhood.

There they got food and clothes – but both said that is about it. They also learned “the Game” as their grandmother was a drug dealer.

Around this time Ashton and Carlos, who had been “twin tight” as kids, became polar opposites.

Ashton fell into drugs, selling and using. He was angry at the world.

“I used (drugs) as an outlet to vent my frustrations and my depression and my stress,” he says. “It was easier to go pick up a crack scale, go grab crack and chip it down.”

Carlos would stay in his room and play video games.

“This is when life gets better, but kind of shittier at the same time. Moved in with my grandma, had all the junk food, anything we wanted, we got … but we lived in a smoke chimney and a drug house. People think it’s cool, but it’s not cool. I would never want any child to have to experience what I did,” he says.

He recalls one day police kicked his grandmother’s door in yelling “the pharmacy is closed” in a drug raid.

He also can’t forget the day his grandmother’s dog was knifed to death.

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While at Rideau High School the twins said they were kept apart. Carlos excelled in sports, including boasting ‎he ran a 12.6 second 100-metre dash at 17. He also says he was naturally gifted at hockey, football and volleyball, but lacked the guidance to take it further.

He also describes himself as the kid “hiding in the corner” at school.

When he graduated high school he didn’t know what to do.

He got a job laying tile for a construction company. He didn’t like making $11-an-hour and quit, but says he was good at it.

Then he started selling cocaine at about 19.

“I just looked at my family and I’m like ‘I’m supposed to be a drug dealer.’ I started being a hustler,” Carlos says.

That escalated to pimping women in the sex trade, even himself to “cougars”.

“I started at a half-ball (couple grams) and worked my way up to a half-bird (half kilogram),” he says, proudly.

He lived in the “spotlight.” Had girls, and felt like he was big deal with money.

He claims to have owned multiple vehicles and woke up counting stacks of cash.

But at around 23 he felt something was missing and he had been snorting his own stash for a while.

He was becoming his father.

“I realized I’m a piece of shit. I’m a piece of shit. I hate myself … and I was on a path of destruction,” he says.

Meanwhile, his brother had found Islam after years of abusing drugs since the age of 12.

“In my 20s, my life started changing around and I discovered Islam and started changing my life for the better,” Ashton says.

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Carlos reached out to his brother who had been trying to get him to join his faith.

But by then the RCMP were already on to Ashton.

In the summer of 2013, the RCMP intercepted conversations between Ashton and John Maguire, a fellow Ottawa young man who flew overseas and joined ISIL in December 2012. In those discussions, Ashton told Maguire he wanted to join him.

According to RCMP documents, Ashton’s mother called the Ottawa police in September 2013 saying her son wanted to go kill for terrorists.

Days later Ashton’s passport was revoked as he had bought a ticket overseas.

It’s not clear how the RCMP was keeping an eye on Ashton as the months passed.

It wasn’t until February 2014 that the RCMP finally approached Ashton who was living at the Salvation Army shelter in downtown.

He denied wanting anything to do with terrorism.

Ashton was convinced the RCMP was watching him after, but documents don’t suggest it.

The RCMP doesn’t appear to take Ashton serious until after a lone shooter gunned down a reservist guarding the National War Memorial in October 2014, then stormed Parliament Hill with ease before being gunned down inside Centre Block by security and the RCMP.

It was then that the RCMP launched Project Slipstream focusing on Ashton and several other local men. Around that time Carlos accepted his brother’s extremist views – just a few months before their eventual arrests.

“I got off drugs like two months before and then I got arrested and boom,” Carlos says. ‎

Despite the charges he was facing, he adds, “My mental state today is way different than it was … when I was all strung out. What really helped was my spiritual healing.”

The RCMP used an informant to get inside Ashton’s circle who recorded the brothers talking about joining ISIL. To date, that informant has been paid nearly $800,000 for his work against the brothers.

Carlos, who describes himself as “the smart one” of the brothers, was secretly recorded by the informant that he thought it was best they stayed in Canada and laid low.

But on Jan. 10, 2015, Carlos was arrested trying to board a plane in Montreal to overseas and join ISIL – something he now can’t believe he was going to do, according to comments made by his lawyer after sentencing.

Ashton was also arrested despite not having a passport, as he had planned an elaborate trip through the Arctic to join his brother.

A few days after their arrest Maguire was reported to have been killed fighting for ISIL.

Gladue report writer Mark Marsolais met with the Larmond brothers in April 2015.
Gladue report writer Mark Marsolais met with the Larmond brothers in April 2015.

The twins met with Mark Marsolais about a month following their arrest. It was a quick meeting, basically Marsolais introduced himself and said he wrote Gladue reports for Indigenous people facing incarceration in Ottawa.

The brothers said they were Algonquin and agreed to be interviewed thinking it would help them get bail, which they did not get.

In April 2015, Ashton was interviewed once and Carlos, twice. In total, they spoke for over three hours describing their chaotic lives and stressing if they had any sort of guidance growing up they wouldn’t be where they were – something the Supreme Court calls Gladue principles.

“Terrible,” is how Marsolais described their lives.

“Product of their own environment. They had a terrible life. They were brought up in a dysfunctional family. They were basically set up for failure right from the get-go.”

Marsolais said he lost contact with the brothers shortly after interviewing them. Both were moved out of Ottawa for safety reasons.

He said no one followed up with him to complete the reports, which he agreed to do for free, and believes the judge could have benefited from reading a report on the brothers.

The day they were sentenced the court did hear a bit about their lives according to Ashton’s lawyer Joe Addelman.

Addelman said he reminded the judge the brothers are Indigenous and Gladue principles needed to be applied, but that is as far as it went.

The judge came back within an hour and gave his indictment, and found Ashton was clearly the leader.

During the jailhouse interviews, the brothers admit they have limited knowledge of their Indigenous history and ‎Carlos says he always asked his grandmother about his Algonquin family, but it was never part of their life.

Ashton blames residential schools and other issues with colonization as to why his family was disconnected from its past. Both say when they get out they want to go live “on the reserve.”

“If I do get a Native piece of land on the reserve I’d like to build my own little log cabin and live peacefully,” says Carlos.

But he wants his story told.

“This is an original story … I’m going to let the world know what my story is,” he says.

[email protected]

Kenneth Jackson is a senior reporter with APTN National News.

 

Gary Dimmock is a senior reporter with the Ottawa Citizen.

 

 

 

Investigative Reporter

Kenneth Jackson is an investigative reporter in Ottawa, Ont. with more than two decades in the business. He got his start in community newspapers before joining the Ottawa Sun in 2007 where he worked the police beat. In 2011, Jackson joined APTN to break the Bruce Carson scandal. The former senior aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried using his contacts in the federal government to sign water deals with First Nations. The RCMP would charge Carson with influence peddling based on APTN’s reporting. The case would make it all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which upheld his conviction in 2018. In recent years, Jackson has focused, almost exclusively, on the child welfare system in Ontario. The work has earned multiple awards, including the 2020 Michener Award.