Psychologist Janis Martin believes she may have been the last person to see Jason Cardinal's sons, Caleb, 6, and Gabriel, 3, alive.
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One day before he and his three-year-old brother Gabriel were found strangled in his father's Abbottfield's home, Cardinal and his sons dropped by Martin's office with the boys to wish her a merry Christmas.
Caleb ran to her and jumped into her arms, telling her he missed her, Martin told a fatality inquiry into the boys' deaths Thursday.
In the months leading up to the murders, Martin was speaking with Jason Cardinal twice a week.
She was helping him through his break up with the boys' mother, Andrea Badger, as well as his mental health issues, she said.
That day the boys were well behaved and told her how excited they were about Christmas coming, Martin said.
A bright child
She played monopoly with Caleb, who even at age six was reading well and succeeding at school.
Martin told the court she thought Caleb was one of the brightest youngsters she had met, someone who one day was going to be a leader.
The boys had so much going for them, she remembered thinking.
Cardinal too was excited for Christmas as he planned to take the the boys to his mother's home on the Goodfish Lake Reserve northeast of Edmonton.
He seemed relaxed as he promised to make an appointment with her on their return, she said.
On their way out they wished each other "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year", she said.
The next day, on Dec. 19, 2010, the boys were found strangled to death on a bed beside their father who had two deep cuts on his arms.
Cardinal eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
When police called Martin to tell her about the murders, it took her a few minutes to process what he was saying, she told the court.
Most tragic situation
To say she was stunned doesn't begin to describe it, she said. She was horrified and found the news traumatizing.
Martin said she couldn't imagine the loss and horror for the family. It was the most tragic situation she's ever seen, she said.
Again and again she turned events over in her mind, trying to find a clue, something she missed.
She believed Cardinal to be loving father, she said.
He met her regularly and seemed motivated to be a good parent, never showing any sign that he wanted harm the boys, she said.
Rather he was taking steps to deal with Child and Family Services concerns over his mental health and how he disciplined his sons.
In fact in July 2010 she wrote to his lawyer to say she thought he was ready to be a parent and have the children back.
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Forensic and clinical psychologist Ann Marie Dewhurst met with Cardinal twice for two hours each time in the summer of 2010.
She told the inquiry she found Cardinal to be a good parent, however she worried about him reacting to situations emotionally.
In an assessment report, she graded his risk of violence to be low to moderate, but would increase without his medication.
However she became concerned when she was told about him forging prescriptions to obtain drugs.
She called it extreme behaviour and she felt further assessment was now needed. She recommended a family court judge to err on the side of caution and move slowly in regards to Cardinal's access to his sons.
The court adjourned until April but kept in place the same level of access which included unsupervised weekend visits.
She said she felt the boys were vulnerable with no one monitoring Cardinal in the home.
Still, she was very surprised at what happened, she said.
Judge Raymond Bodnarek will now prepare a report on how to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future.