Remembering Sommer Boudreau

Deep River – Mourning the loss of a loved one is never easy during the holiday season and it was an especially devastating time for the family and friends of Sommer-Lee Boudreau, who was murdered on December 11.

The death of the 39-year-old Deep River woman came as a shock and left her three children -- Tyee, Tia and seven-year-old Ashley -- without a mother and with so many unanswered questions. They will have to wait until January 6 to find out what the next phase will be in the case against Adam Rossi, the 41-year-old man charged with second degree murder in relation to her case.

He appeared briefly in court on December 28. This was his second appearance in the Ontario Court of Justice in Pembroke following a previous adjournment of his December 16 hearing. He is currently in custody at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre pending the completion of his bail hearing.

He was formally charged with second degree murder and one count of indignity to a human body. A Section 517 publication ban is in place that disallows sharing of information during a bail hearing, along with reasons given by the judge, until the accused is discharged or, if ordered to stand trial, the trial has ended.

As this court case proceeds, Ms. Boudreau’s children face a lifetime without their mother and an uncertain financial future. For that reason, family and friends have set up a trust fund to bring some type of stability for Ms. Boudreau’s family as they begin a new chapter in their lives without the guidance and love of a woman senselessly murdered.

Deep River Police and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have declined to say how Mr. Rossi and Ms. Boudreau knew each other or whether the alleged murder was domestic in nature. Details remain scarce, but police in the town of 4,000 which is home to hundreds of current and former employees of various atomic-energy related industries, were conducting a wellness check at the Rutherford Avenue duplex when her body was discovered.

Her murder forced family and friends to relive a similar nightmare they hoped was well behind them. Nearly 13 years before Sommer's death, Ashley Boudreau, a younger sister, was killed by her partner in the home they shared in Ottawa in January, 2010.

The murder of Sommer Boudreau has again brought the issue of domestic violence and femicide to the forefront. If the accused is found guilty of second-degree murder, it will be the third similar murder in Renfrew County in 2022.

It is the same county that hosted a formal Coroner’s Inquest this last June into the events leading up to the September 2015 triple-murder of Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam at the hands of Basil Borutski. He is currently serving a life sentence after being found guilty of the three murders.

Sommer Remembered

Typhany Stallberg, a childhood and lifetime friend of Ms. Boudreau, is saddened not only because of the sudden loss of a woman she calls her sister but said a lot of the media focus has been on the sad irony that the two Boudreau sisters died in such a similar way. She said it is not surprising the issue of femicide has dominated much of the media coverage since her death, but she is concerned the life of her best friend is getting overshadowed.

Ms. Boudreau was born in Elliot Lake but her family moved to Petawawa when she was very young. She and Ms. Stallberg spent many summer days at Mackey, a tiny hamlet on the Ottawa River 30 kilometres west of Deep River. It was there along the river where many lifetime memories were made. They walked to and from school every day and explored the world together.

“I want people to know Sommer had a life and she made an impact,” she said. “Sommer was brave and a free spirit who loved to write and sing. She was raised in the small town of Petawawa where she grew up alongside her siblings Ashley and Christopher.”

Ms. Stallberg said her friend had a certain flair and style that made her stand out. Among those traits was her immense pride in her Native heritage.

“Growing up she was deeply rooted to her Native culture,” she said. “Whether it was going to ceremonies, smudging and burning sweet grass and sage, she was always a proud Algonquin.”

According to Ms. Stallberg, her friend valued family above all else and she pursued her dream of opening a baking business, called Sweet Treats. As part of her business, she incorporated her children and her Native heritage. She loved having her children involved and they had recently delivered a load of Bannock for a Deep River Christmas festival.

“She spent her time with friends travelling from house to house by foot or on a bicycle and she loved family meals and occasions,” she said. “She opened a baking business that she took pride in. She loved having her children participate in the kitchen alongside of her. Her biggest accomplishment was her children. She would play alongside with them and enroll them in extra-curricular activities.”

Ms. Stallberg said her death not only brought back the memories of her slain sister, but to have it happen so close to Christmas is especially hard as Ms. Boudreau embraced all the traditions of the Christmas season.

“Sommer loved Christmas because it was a time to come together,” she said. “Sommer would make her Christmas cards to mail out and decorate her home with lights and she was close to her mother and friends and she was always showing up and reaching out.”

Raising three children was challenging enough but she faced the greatest challenge of her life in 2016 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She eventually lost her breast and combined with other life-threatening medical issues, she put on a brave face and emerged a survivor.

“She was beautiful inside and out,” Ms. Stallberg said. “Surviving cancer taught her about not taking life for granted and staying humble for it’s the little things that get us through. She was looking forward to becoming a hands-on grandmother. Most of all she was a daughter, mother, sister and friend.”

About 150 people gathered in the cold at a vigil honouring the memory of Ms. Boudreau in Deep River on December 19. It was organized by End Violence Against Women Renfrew County, which is part of a coalition of groups that gather annually in Petawawa at a monument dedicated to murdered women who were victims of domestic violence.

Sadly, her younger sister Ashley’s name is one of the 26 names listed on the memorial.

A Celebration of Life is scheduled for February 4 at the Royal Canadian Legion in Petawawa from 2 p.m. until 10 p.m. Ms. Stallberg said it will be a day of reflection. She encourages people who attend to share memories of Ms. Boudreau with a strong focus on the strength and bravery of the woman she has called her sister for more than 30 years.

A secure bank account in trust of Ms. Boudreau’s children and future grandchildren has been set up and anyone wishing to contribute can do so by sending an e-transfer to justiceforsommer@gmail.com

Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader