A fatality inquiry report into the death of an Alberta boy at the hands of his father says the "outcome may have been different" if his parents' divorce proceedings had been less stressful.


Emergency crews at the scene where a father and his son were found dead in 2008. (Ossie Sheddy/Drumheller Mail)

A grandparent found the bodies of the boy, 3, and his father, 35, inside a bedroom in a Drumheller house in 2008. Both had died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The boys’ parents were in the midst of an acrimonious custody dispute. Suicide notes taped to the bedroom door revealed the father’s actions were prompted by the mother's plans to move to Ottawa with their child.

In an 87-page report into the death, Judge Patrick McIlhargey said it's unlikely anyone could have anticipated the deaths.

"This tragic circumstance involved two young adult members of our community who were under significant and prolonged stress due to a marriage break-up, divorce and custody proceedings. Each reacted differently to that stress," the judge wrote.

No recommendations made

"Had the legal proceedings been less stressful and/or had the measures taken by the authorities been more effective in reducing the stressful environment then the outcome may well have been different."

McIlhargey makes no specific recommendations to prevent similar deaths.

"The issues raised in this inquiry were numerous and complex and I believe have been or are being addressed," he wrote.

However, the boy’s mother suggestions to the judge included better help for women in rural communities— especially those experiencing domestic violence; long-term solutions to the issue of domestic violence; more extensive use of psychological evaluations; mandatory Parenting After Separation courses; and taking non-criminal family matter proceedings out of the courtroom.

The inquiry was held in Drumheller over nearly two weeks in 2011 and 2012.