Suspect charged in the murder of SFU prof

By Benedict Reiners

Man charged with second-degree murder had prior assault charges

Nearly eight months after the murder of SFU chemistry professor Melanie O’Neill, who was found dead in her Vancouver home July 26 of last year, police have laid charges against a suspect.

Charges have been laid against 25-year-old Matthew James Scott, who is reported as having been in an “on again, off again” relationship with O’Neill. The arrest took place on Saturday, March 3, with Scott being charged with second-degree murder. This charge comes after an investigation that saw the participation of upwards of 40 officers from varying jurisdictions in Vancouver as well as others as far away as Victoria and Abbotsford, in addition to the Behavioural Sciences Group of the RCMP.

Scott is no stranger to the justice system. His past charges include assault causing bodily harm, obstructing a police officer, and breach of recognizance, all of which took place in 2011. However, verdicts have yet to be assigned in any of those cases.

Police also stated that Scott had been an early suspect in the investigation, but only recently was there sufficient evidence to provide grounds for an arrest.
O’Neill had been a professor at SFU for six years prior to her death. She has been honoured at the university at which she worked with the addition of a bench adjacent to the AQ pond, in addition to an undergraduate student research endowment set up in her name.

“The location of the bench was chosen because Melanie O’Neill started her day there,” stated Don MacLachlan, director of SFU Public Affairs and Media Relations. “She would hike up Burnaby Mountain, take in the beauty of the mountains and garden at that spot, and then head to her research lab.”
On the bench there is a quote by Rabindranath Tagore: “The fireflies, twinkling among leaves, make the stars wonder,” which MacLachlan stated was selected in order to reflect “Melanie’s love of poetry, nature, and the wonders of science.”

In addition to the bench erected in her honour, the Melanie O’Neill Chemistry Undergraduate Research Award has also been set up. The award fund has already received $50,000 to support the award, coming from donations given to the fund by both family and friends alike, as well as her former colleagues. The award will be granted annually to an undergraduate student in chemistry who “demonstrates research excellence”, as stated by the donation form for the fund. The endowment is still accepting donations, and the form for the fund can be found online.

Though O’Neill continues to be honoured by those who knew her and the university at which she worked, the eventual result of the case remains unclear.
Police, due to the case now being before the court system, have withheld many details of the case, including the cause of death. Though standard practice as dictated by laws regarding the release of information pertinent to an ongoing court case, this leaves further advancements in the case up to the courts.
In the meantime, Detective Sally Davies said family and friends remain “sad at her death, but pleased that someone has been charged.”

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