Carol Culleton, described by those who knew her as a soft-spoken "sweetheart," had retired just days ago and was trying to get her life in order before she and two other women were killed in three communities around eastern Ontario on Tuesday. 

Culleton, 66, had worked as a compensation adviser with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Ottawa and retired on Sept. 18, just four days before her body was found at her cottage on Kamaniskeg Lake Road, south of Barry's Bay, a relative confirmed to CBC News.

Basil Borutski, 57, who knew all three women found dead, was arrested and charged Wednesday with three counts of first-degree murder.

Culleton lived in North Gower, a small community in south Ottawa about 200 kilometres east of the cottage. Her husband, who had battled cancer, died a couple of years ago.

Suspect was working on cottage, realtor says

Realtor Cathy Pitts told CBC News she discovered Culleton's body when she showed up at the Kamaniskeg Lake Road cottage on Tuesday morning for a previously scheduled meeting.

Cathy Pitts Terry Pitts realtor Carol Culleton homicide Sept 23 2015

Cathy Pitts, left, found Carol Culleton's body in her cottage on Tuesday. Pitts and her husband, Terry Pitts, right, say the justice system failed Culleton and the two other women killed near Wilno, Ont. (CBC News)

Culleton had been interested in selling the cottage, Pitts said, and had hired Borutski to help fix up the property.

Pitts said Borutski had befriended Culleton and had been doing work around the cottage.

Borutski has a lengthy criminal history, including charges involving two of the three women found dead Tuesday, court records show.

In July 2012, Borutski was convicted of uttering threats to kill an animal that belonged to Nathalie Warmerdam, another of the women found dead Tuesday.

A year and a half later, in January 2014, Borutski was charged for assault, choking, theft of a motor vehicle, and possession of a weapon despite a weapons ban against him in relation to an incident involving Anastasia Kuzyk, the third victim, who had dated him at one time.

Borutski was convicted on those counts, was sentenced to 19 months in jail, submitted to a DNA collection order, paid hundreds of dollars in victim surcharges and was released on probation with a lifetime weapons ban.

While residents told CBC News Borutski was released from jail weeks ago, Ontario's Ministry of of Community Safety and Correctional Services said Thursday that he was released on Dec. 27, 2014.

'Somewhere the justice system failed'

Pitts said she's upset with the justice system.

"As the day went on, and understanding the connections of what happened there and what happened in the community, actually I was more angry than anything. I was upset with the loss of the three women ... I'm really upset with the justice system," Pitts told CBC News on Wednesday.

Her husband, Terry Pitts, agreed.

"Why was he allowed to be on the loose the way he was? That's the frustrating part for me, is somewhere the justice system failed this community, and in particular, those three women and their families. It's terrible," he said.

'A great sense of humour'

Culleton sometimes spent time at Duffy's Tavern in Richmond, about a 15-minute drive away from her home in North Gower.

Ike Bottema, a regular customer at the tavern, said she would meet him there about once a month or so.

"She was a sweetheart, very soft spoken, quiet, but ... [she had] a great sense of humour, like a dry sense of humour," Bottema said Wednesday. "And a twinkle in her eye, too; a very mischievous kind of twinkle in her eye."

Bottema said he made her an offer to fix up her cottage for her, but that she told him she was hiring "a local guy" to do it instead.

"I know she was looking forward to retirement," he said. "She was trying to get things cleaned up, trying to get her life straight, she was even looking at selling her place which is just south of Richmond ... but the cottage was her first priority."

He said he was shocked to hear she was one of the women killed Tuesday.

"I was just dumbfounded. What do you say?"