Special Report

Who were the people whose 48 homicides informed Sask.'s 1st domestic violence death review?

From 2005-2014, 48 Saskatchewan people were killed in domestic violence situations. Their cases have informed the province’s first domestic violence death review. In part one of this three-part series, we look at what we know about the victims.

Saskatchewan has highest rate of domestic violence amongst all Canadian provinces

From 2005-2014, 48 Saskatchewan people were killed in domestic violence situations. Their cases have informed the province’s first domestic violence death review. (Regina Leader-Post, Obituary, Legacy.com, InMememorian.com, ObitTree.com, AfterLife.com, Facebook)

Jessica Schroeder's 18-month son, Raime Myers, was just learning his first words when he was smothered to death by her then-boyfriend.

"Raime was a very sweet little boy," said Schroeder, who thinks about her son every day.

He was killed in 2009 by Jason Will. In 2012, Will was convicted of manslaughter in Myers' death and sentenced to seven years in prison. He never took responsibility for his actions or expressed remorse.

Myers was one of 15 children whose death was declared a domestic violence homicide within a 10-year period in Saskatchewan.

All of the children were killed by someone who was supposed to be caring for them. Their deaths are included in the 48 homicides that have informed the province's first review of domestic violence deaths.

Raime Myers was 18 months old when his mother's then-boyfriend smothered him. He is one of 15 children whose homicides have informed Saskatchewan's first domestic violence death review. (Jessica Schroeder/Submitted to CBC)

Saskatchewan's deadly domestic violence problem

Saskatchewan has the highest rate of domestic violence among all Canadian provinces.

Of intimate partner violence reported to police, Saskatchewan had 5,976 cases in 2015 — taking the top spot with 666 cases per 100,000 people. Ontario, with 12 times the population of Saskatchewan, had the lowest rate, at 226 per 100,000, according to Statistics Canada.

Between 2004 and 2014, police reported 967 intimate partner homicides in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.

In Saskatchewan, between Jan. 1, 2005, and Dec. 31, 2014, there were 331 homicides. Of these, 48 deaths, or 14.5 per cent, were related to domestic violence. 

During this period, there were also nine related suicides, for a total of 57 domestic violence-related deaths in 10 years.

Latasha Gosling, 27, and her three children (from left) Janayah, 4, Jenika, 8, and Landen, 7, were killed. (Submitted by Jessica Rae)

In 2015, following the Tisdale, Sask., murders of Latasha Gosling and her three children at the hands of her partner, who then killed himself, Saskatchewan's Ministry of Justice announced it would launch a pilot to review domestic violence deaths – a first for the province.

A panel, composed of domestic violence caseworkers and advocates, social workers, municipal police, RCMP and Ministry of Justice officials, examined six of the 48 domestic violence death cases. The final report has not yet been released.

In a three-part series, CBC Saskatchewan is taking a closer look at the victims behind the 48 cases.

Through obtained reports of the coroner, CBC Saskatchewan has created the following database that includes basic information for each person whose domestic violence homicide or suicide informed the provincial review.

Who were they?

Note: click to skip to profiles of each victim

Of the 33 adult victims, 19 were female and 14 were male.

Twenty-seven of the 48 homicide victims were Indigenous, 19 were Caucasian and the ethnicity of two others is unknown, according to the Saskatchewan Domestic Violence Death Review's (SDVDR) interim report.

More than one-third of the victims were under the age of 21.

Of the 15 child victims, 14 were under the age of 10 when they were killed. Five were female and nine were male.

Another two female victims were between the ages of 11 and 20.

Ten of the child victims, including Myers, were not a child of the perpetrator. In five cases they were.

A mother's grief

Jessica Schroeder says she has healed since her son was killed. (CBC News)

In 2009, Schroeder was a 19-year-old mother of Myers and a two-year-old girl.

"I was really young then, barely an adult, but very much enjoying my children," she said.

Schroeder and her children were living with her boyfriend, Will, and his brother in Regina. It was a short relationship that lasted a total of nine months, according to Schroeder, and ended in tragedy.

"I was really elated at first, because I thought it was all coming together. Things went downhill, though," she said.

Raime Myers (left) with his big sister. The girl was two years old when Raime was killed. (Jessica Schroeder/Submitted to CBC)

Schroeder said looking back, she now knows she was living in an emotionally abusive relationship. She said Will would explode into fits of anger on a daily basis.

"It just seemed normal at the time. I felt so isolated, it just became normal for me."

Eventually, she decided she would leave Will, although she said she decided it would be best not to tell him.

Before she was able to leave, Myers was killed.

The day everything changed

Schroeder remembers the day her life changed forever — July 9, 2009.

She said she was heading upstairs to check on the boy, who was napping, when she heard someone call down that he wasn't breathing.

I felt so isolated, it just became normal for me.- Jessica Schroeder said of her abusive relationship

The next thing she remembers is an ambulance ride.

"For all I knew, at that time, he was sick. It took a while to realize what had really happened," she said.

The toddler was declared dead in hospital two days later.

In the days that followed, Schroeder lost custody of her daughter. Eventually the girl was placed with a family member by Social Services while she dealt with court proceedings.

"I pulled through for her," she said. "I feel like if I would have had her with me, it would have helped both of us heal."

Although she had the support of her family, Schroeder said the trial was difficult.

"Having to go over and over it again, for years, it was really hard. It made me feel stuck, like I couldn't move on."

She said she wishes she would have known more about what resources were available to help her leave the abusive relationship, before it was too late.

"Maybe I wouldn't have been so ashamed to ask for help from strangers … I just didn't know about any of it."

Jason Will, wearing a hat, is seen as he entered a Regina court house. (Joana Draghici/CBC)

In the nine years since her son's death, Schroeder has healed. She attributes counselling, spiritual healing, parenting classes, personal reflection and family support to her success.

Schroeder is now married and her daughter lives with her and her husband.

"Reaching out, really reaching out and telling people I needed help, was the most important thing," she said. "I didn't realize how many people were willing to stand beside me."

Who are the killers?

Will is one of 46 people responsible for the 48 homicides. Of these perpetrators, 32, or 70 per cent, are male and 14, or 30 per cent, are female.

Of the 46 perpetrators, nine committed suicide following the homicide, according to the SDVDR's report.

According to the report, of the 48 victims: 

  • 18 were killed as a result of blunt force trauma
  • 15 were killed with a sharp implement, like a knife
  • 10 were killed as a result of a gunshot
  • Two were killed by a motor vehicle 
  • One was killed due to carbon monoxide poisoning
  • One died due to neglect
  • One person's cause of death is unknown, but is suspected to be the result of a gunshot

Eighteen victims were killed by their spouse and two were killed by a former spouse. Six victims were killed by someone they were dating and two were killed by an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, according to the province.

Of the 33 adult victims, 30 were in, or had been in, an intimate relationship with the perpetrator. Of these victims, 18 were living with the person who killed them.

The Ministry of Justice said the final SDVDR's report, complete with recommendations aimed at preventing domestic violence deaths in the future, will be released in the next few months.

Originally, it was expected in the fall of 2017.

In at least 15 of the 48 homicides, problematic substance use was a known factor.

Victims behind 48 cases

Is someone you know on the list above? CBC Saskatchewan would like to learn more about the life of each of these people. Contact us here.

Part two of this series will examine the role substance use and addiction play in domestic violence and what Saskatchewan is doing about it.

About the Author

Madeline Kotzer

@MadelineKotzer

Madeline Kotzer is an award-winning Saskatchewan journalist and Social Media News Editor/Presenter for CBC Saskatchewan and CBC Saskatoon.

-with files from CBC's Stefani Langenegger and Bonnie Allen