Homicide victim annoyed at handyman, colleagues tell murder trial

In the weeks leading up to her death, homicide victim Carol Culleton was annoyed by the pace of her handyman and mentioned a series of strange incidents involving him, colleagues of hers told court at her accused killer's trial Monday.

3rd week of Basil Borutski's trial begins

Basil Borutski, 60, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the September 2015 deaths of Nathalie Warmerdam, Anastasia Kuzyk and Carol Culleton. (Sketch by Laurie Foster-MacLeod)

In the weeks leading up to her death, homicide victim Carol Culleton was annoyed by the pace of her handyman and mentioned a series of strange incidents involving him, colleagues of hers told court at her accused killer's trial Monday.

The bodies of Culleton, 66, Anastasia Kuzyk, 36, and Nathalie Warmerdam, 48, were found at three separate locations in and around the community of Wilno, Ont., on Sept. 22, 2015.

Basil Borutski, now 59, faces three counts of first-degree murder. He has refused to participate in his trial despite the fact he's representing himself, and the court has entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf.

Carolyn Rowlee and Lorraine Wallace worked with Culleton, handling payments for public service employees in the federal agriculture department, they testified Monday.

Their office was in the process of being phased out from 2013 to 2015. By 2015 they were working on a very small team, and they all retired together on Sept. 18, 2015, the day they closed up their office.

Carol Culleton, 66, had retired just days before her killing. (Facebook)

'She was annoyed'

During examination in chief by Crown attorney Julie Scott, Rowlee told court that Culleton told her a handyman named Basil had offered to fix up her cottage for free because he was on disability due to a bad car accident, felt "bored," and "wanted something to do."

Later on, Culleton told Rowlee that Basil had a habit of starting new projects without finishing older ones first, which was delaying her ability to sell the cottage.

"She was annoyed. She wanted to get the cottage on the market," Rowlee told court.

"Every time she left on a Friday she'd say, 'OK, I'm going to put the cottage on the market.' And first thing on Monday it was, 'Did you put the cottage on the market?' And of course it never was because of the work he had started and stuff like that, so we had talked about it a lot."

'A number of incidences that bothered her'

During examination in chief by Crown attorney Jeffery Richardson, Wallace told court Culleton mentioned the handyman to her after the long weekend in July 2015, and that things went well for a few weeks "but changed by the end of July."

The handyman, whose name Wallace didn't know at the time, had removed a porch light without Culleton's permission and relocated the steps to her front porch, Wallace testified. Culleton told her she asked the handyman to put the light back, but that he never did.

Then, sometime between Sept. 1 and Sept. 11, 2015, Culleton stood in the doorway of Wallace's office, told her she'd gotten a lot of texts from the handyman, and then described "a number of incidences that bothered her," Wallace told court.

Culleton let a friend of hers and his family stay at the cottage one weekend in exchange for doing work on it, and she asked the handyman not to be there but "he showed up anyway," court heard.

Then Culleton told Wallace the handyman showed up on her driveway in North Gower, Ont., and that she hadn't given him her address before.

She also mentioned being frightened enough by something to drive at night from her cottage to her home in North Gower, though Wallace couldn't remember being given any other details about it.

'He sounds like a stalker'

Wallace told court Culleton also mentioned being at her cottage on a stormy night with a longtime friend of hers who also knew her late husband, and that the handyman arrived by boat, left, came back to say the boat had stalled, and ended up staying the night in a trailer on Culleton's property with her permission.

"'I think he was looking to see if there was something going on between [the family friend] and I,'" Wallace recalled Culleton telling her.

"What is this guy's name?" Wallace asked.

"She said Basil, and I said, 'Well, he sounds like a stalker,'" Wallace testified.

Wallace and Rowlee both testified that on their last day of work, Sept. 18, Culleton said she was going to meet with a real estate agent about selling the cottage and that Wallace asked whether it was safe for her to go alone.

Rowlee described Culleton as saying she had the situation "all under control," and Wallace said Culleton calmly and matter-of-factly said she'd cleared things up with Basil and that it was "all good."

Neither of the women saw or heard from Culleton again.

The trial is not sitting Tuesday due to a scheduling issue. Tuesday also happens to be Borutski's 60th birthday.

The trial is expected to resume Wednesday, with testimony from a longtime friend of both Culleton and her late husband.