Triple murder inquest underway, day on hears family members

·6 min read

Pembroke -- The opening morning of the coroner’s inquest into the 2015 murders of three area women heard personal profiles of Anastasia (‘Stacia’) Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam from family members.

Stacia’s older sister, Zou Zou, spoke of her love of nature, passion for horses and love for her four siblings.

“She was the baby of the family and, as it is in big families, everyone had a role,” she said. “Stacia was always resourceful and competent, and she became my mother’s helper. She was also a loving and sweet sister. No matter how busy she was, she always made time for her family and for people.”

Zou Zou told of how Stacia thrived on the outdoor life of Renfrew County.

“She loved going fishing, going for walks. We were lucky that our parents loved coming up here from southern Ontario to go camping and canoeing.

“Stacia wanted to excel in everything, whether it was creativity, cooking, gardening or looking after family members. She was very accomplished with her riding even while in high school. People with expensive horses trusted her to take their horses to shows. She was brave enough to guide these powerful high-strung horses over those high jumps.

“She followed my mom to move to the Wilno area . She first worked in Algonquin Park and then at the Wilno Tavern during their incredible Blues Night, and then as a real estate agent.

“She had a touch that could make a house beautiful. She would do whatever it took to help her clients, things like shovelling the driveway if that was needed. What she loved about being a real estate agent was helping people.

“Stacia was always striving to be the best at whatever she was doing. She worked hard herself and had expectations of herself, but she also had high expectations of those around her. She had a lot of confidence in others that they would be true to their word.

“She also really believed in the institutions around her which keep our society functioning. It never would have crossed her mind that the systems would fail her as much as they did that day. She would have believed whole heartedly in the importance of this process of discovering what went wrong.”

Valerie Warmerdam also presented a personal picture of her mother, Nathalie, as a dedicated nurse and a community-oriented volunteer.

“Mom had just gotten her bachelor of nursing which was a big career change for her. Mom was always very involved in community and being a nurse was very important to her. I’ve had so many people tell me how fondly she is remembered in their lives. She worked in palliative care nursing, helping people during the time they were dying and that was a real passion in her life, helping at that difficult time.”

Valerie told of the early days when Basil Borutski moved into the family home, discounting the idea that an abuser is all bad, citing the good times that did happen when Basil was first involved in their lives.

“A lot of people saw what happened and could only picture Basil as the monster who did these things and wondered how a relationship could even exist,” she said. “But he was not like that all the time. There were definitely some good times.”

She cautioned against the notion of intimate violence being carried out by someone who ‘is a monster’ because that gives a false profile of who is capable of intimate partner violence. If you make recommendations that don’t see the good in anyone, you’ll only look for monsters and miss the others.

But the good in the relationship was quickly replaced with arguments and fights.

“Basil was always making himself out to be the victim. He refused to take responsibility for his actions. He believed he was the victim, right up until the end. Basil’s alcoholism was becoming a lot worse. There were a lot of warning signs for Mom that things could not continue. She told Basil he had to leave but he refused, and she ended up sleeping in the guest room with the door locked while he shouted at her all night.”

A conversation with a neighbour convinced Nathalie that she had to involve the police to get Basil out of her house. But pressing charges in a domestic partner violence situation can escalate the danger, a fact that the Warmerdam’s were aware of as Basil had threatened to kill any ex-partners who had put him in jail.

“There’s no chance that mom was not aware that this applied to her as well, that if she succeeded in putting him in jail, he would come after her as well. Mom had no ill-will toward Basil. She just wanted safety for herself and for us. She didn’t want any harm to come to him.”

Valerie Warmerdam cited several reasons why her mother hadn’t pressed charges earlier. “Mom saw that there was some basis to Basil’s claim that he was mistreated by the local police which may have given him more credibility in her eyes. The questionable police actions Mom witnessed didn’t help. There was also the situation of social stigma. Maybe a less important factor for her but, after Mom pressed charges, friends came to our house and said, “how could you do that?”

Despite all these factors, Nathalie did eventually press charges because she believed in using all the levers she could within the system to provide more avenues of legal protection for other women. Because Mr. Borutski had no previous convictions, it limited what the law could do to protect her.

“When we heard Anastasia had been beaten, Mom reached out to Anastasia to give support but also to encourage her to press charges.”

Valerie cited all the actions taken by her mother to keep herself safe, which included buying a gun, installing a security camera and always being vigilant in public.

“Mom believed she was doing everything in her power to keep herself safe, short of moving out of her community.

“We had a voice mail from a neighbour warning us that things might not be safe. It arrived about 10 minutes after Mom died. That was through the community grapevine,” Valerie said, questioning whether various actions could have been taken by law enforcement that could have alerted Nathalie more quickly through proper channels.

Some 30 witnesses will be called over the next 21 days to present to the five-person jury who will make recommendations aimed at strengthening the protective systems around women at risk of partner violence.

The inquest continues until June 27.

Johanna Zomers, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader

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