Killer of 3 Ottawa Valley women a 'domestic violence terrorist' who needed help early in life, inquest hears

·5 min read
The murders of Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton are being examined during a coroner's inquest in Ontario's Renfrew County over the course of the next three weeks, with a focus on intimate partner violence and preventing future instances of domestic homicide.  (CBC News - image credit)
The murders of Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton are being examined during a coroner's inquest in Ontario's Renfrew County over the course of the next three weeks, with a focus on intimate partner violence and preventing future instances of domestic homicide. (CBC News - image credit)

A psychologist who analyzed the history of the man who murdered three women in rural Ontario says the perpetrator was a "domestic violence terrorist" who needed help much earlier in life.

"He terrorized many women over many years and created an incredible level of harm," said Dr. Peter Jaffe, a recent director at the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women & Children, at a coroner's inquest on Wednesday.

The inquest is examining the Sept. 22, 2015 deaths of Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam, who were all murdered by the same man they knew in Renfrew County, west of Ottawa. Basil Borutski was convicted of three counts of murder in a jury trial and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 70 years.

The inquest began Monday in Pembroke, Ont., and is expected to hear from a number of more witnesses over the next two weeks, including a survivor of intimate partner violence and prosecutors of domestic abusers.

Five jurors — three men and two women — are being asked to suggest concrete ways survivors of domestic violence in rural communities can be better protected and supported in the future.

Over the 20-year period that ended in his killing rampage, Borutski also abused two other women and there were many warning signs to family, friends and authorities that he posed a serious risk to women, Jaffe stated in a report for the inquest.

"The women had been abused and told multiple people that they were frightened by him," Jaffe wrote.

Jaffe's review suggests that between 2010, when Borutski became involved with Warmerdam, and the 2015 murders of Warmerdam, Kuzyk and Culleton, there were as many as 120 opportunities for intervention by friends, family or law enforcement professionals who were aware of Borutski's violence or threats.

The inquest has heard that Borutski's neighbour reported that on the night before the murders, Borutski said he "could go tomorrow morning and kill my [former partner] and still go to heaven."

Police reports had already tagged Borutski as a "high risk" by 2013, two years before the murders, Jaffe's review found.

"By the spring of 2015, there seemed to be agreement among the reports from probation, the police, and the Crown that the perpetrator posed a serious risk to one of the victims as well as to any future intimate partners."

Jail had no impact on Borutski's conduct, expert says 

At the same time, Borutski put up an "extreme" challenge to efforts to reform his behaviour.

Borutski's trial and the inquest have heard that at the time of the murders, he was on probation for having previously assaulted Kuzyk, on a lifetime weapons ban (Kuzyk and Warmerdam were shot; he told police he found the shotgun under the floorboards of an old motor home in a scrapyard) and had declined to take part in a court-mandated domestic violence response program.

"Obviously, if someone doesn't want to get help, they're telling you something," Jaffe testified.

Borutski had also spent time in jail after being convicted of previously assaulting Warmerdam.

"Incarceration had no impact on his conduct, and he seemed to leave jail even angrier and justifying killing the victims based on his own reports, writings and statements made to others," Jaffe wrote.

Office of the Chief Coroner
Office of the Chief Coroner

The burden of protecting Borutski's victims sometimes fell on the women's own shoulders, he added.

Warmerdam kept a gun under her bed and parked backwards in order to ensure a quick exit, her daughter Valerie Warmerdam has testified.

"She was always trying to stay vigilant, making plans and backup plans," she said.

First abuse conviction when he was 20

Jaffe also testified that Borutski's first conviction for a crime of intimate partner violence was in 1977, when he was 20 years old.

Given how long court processes can take, that abuse may have been committed when Borutski was still a teenager, he added.

Although it's unclear what assistance, if any, he received, Borutski reported he was abused himself as a child and suffered from mental illness.

"The possibility of 'successful intervention' would have needed to happen when he was a young man," Jaffe wrote.

CBC News
CBC News

Amanda Dale, the former executive director of a gender-based violence clinic in Toronto who has attended some of the inquest, agreed that identifying an early tendency to violence is key.

"We have to talk about prevention so that we're not intervening when an abuser has become very high risk," she said.

"We [need to] catch young men way earlier in their cycle of becoming men, and….educate them about the value of the women in their lives and to deter them from assuming that women are disposable or that women owe them something."

Jaffe outlined a number of suggestions for the inquest jurors who will be tasked with making recommendations on how to prevent future deaths from intimate partner violence.

He said Ontario's Ministry of Education should ensure every elementary and secondary school has programs to help students learn the skills to prevent intimate partner violence in their dating and future relationships.

Jaffe's testimony will continue on Thursday.

'Reliving the horror' of that day

The inquest into the triple homicide came up in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Cheryl Gallant, the Conservative MP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, said the victims' families and the community are "reliving the horror of what they went through."

She went on to criticize Bill C-5, the Liberal government legislation first introduced last December that seeks to eliminate mandatory minimum penalties for a number of tobacco, firearms and drug offences.

"It sends the wrong message to women who live in fear of domestic violence," Gallant said. "It sends the wrong message to the courts. In this case, a violent offender who openly ignored court orders that were part of his probation was released anyhow."

Read the full Jaffe report below.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting