Inquest into Ottawa Valley triple-murder hears from victims' family members
A coroner’s inquest into the murders of three Ottawa Valley women is underway in Pembroke.
Basil Borutksi killed Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam in September 2015 in the Renfrew County area. He was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Kuzyk and Warmerdam, and one count of second-degree murder in the strangling death of Culleton.
Borutski had relationships with all three women he murdered. Prior to the murders, he had twice spent time in jail after two of the victims had accused him of assault and uttering threats.
The coroner's inquest, which began Monday at the Best Western Pembroke Inn and Conference Centre, will examine the circumstances surrounding the deaths, and may make recommendations aimed at preventing further deaths. It will last 15 days, and hear from approximately 30 witnesses.
“Some changes have to come out that make people safer; that make women safer,” said Zou Zou Kuzyk, Anastasia Kuzyk’s sister. “The day of her death is what’s coming back to me here.”
Kuzyk was the first to testify Monday. Natalie Warmerdam’s daughter Valerie also spoke Monday.
“You have to build a system that doesn’t only catch monsters… Because then it will always be too late,” she said.
Warmerdam described Borutski, who lived with the family for two years, as a “step-dad” who taught her how to pluck a chicken and cook a gizzard. She mentioned that how Borutski was viewed when her mother was killed was not how he was viewed before, even though her mother broke it off and people became aware she had gone to police.
“Friends of Basil’s and hers came over to the house and had conversations of how could you? How could you do this to him?”
Victims being made to feel guilty is just one of the issues the inquest hopes to tackle. Others include a criminal justice system that failed to convict Borutski’s history of abuse prior to triple murder.
“It would have come as a complete shock to Stasia that things could fall apart in that way, that systems could fail, and that’s what we have to change,” said Kuzyk.
Advocacy groups say this inquest is coming at a time when stressors leading to domestic violence are high.
“Incidents have gone up because of the pandemic,” said Joanne Brooks, coordinator at End Violence Against Women in Renfrew County.
Discussions have also touched on the rural culture of minding one’s own business and the relationship with gun culture.
At the end of the inquest, the five-person jury will be tasked with considering eight public policy issues. A lawyer will then turn it into a report with recommendations.
Borutski will die in prison. In 2017, then 60, he was handed a life sentence with no chance of parole for 70 years.
--With files from CTV News Ottawa’s Stefan Keyes, Josh Pringle, and Dylan Dyson.