Basil Borutski case shows burden often on victim to guard against past abuser, officer says

The chilling story of three women allegedly killed by the same man in one day in Eastern Ontario raises questions about the value of reporting domestic abuse — and what more can be done to protect victims from abusers.

Eastern Ontario man accused of killing 3 women — including 2 who took him to court

The bodies of Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton were found at three separate locations near Wilno, Ont., on Tuesday. The man accused of killing them has a criminal history involving Kuzyk and Warmerdam. (CBC News)

Anastasia Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam each went to court to keep the same abusive ex-boyfriend away.

Now that man is accused of killing both — along with a third woman he knew — in calculated executions at separate locations within a 25-kilometre radius of Wilno, Ont., about 150 km west of Ottawa.

The chilling story raises questions about the value of reporting domestic abuse and the justice system's ability to reform domestic violence offenders. 

Often, the burden is on survivors of abuse to guard against their abuser after that person's jail time is done, said Staff Sgt. Jamie Dunlop, the head of the Ottawa Police Service's partner assault unit.

"We don't have the resources, generally speaking, to necessarily follow someone all the time," Dunlop said on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

"We work with the victims if they're feeling fearful that the person might come and re-offend. That's the unfortunate reality, where we're putting the burden on them, then, to potentially change their lives."

Still, Dunlop emphasized that reporting abuse to police is an important first step that can lead to criminal charges. Police can help link victims with various services that provide a network of support, he said.

Listen to the full interview below.

Three women murdered, allegedly all by the same man. At least two sought protection but what can police really provide to victims? The head of the Ottawa Police Partner Assault unit answers that question. 6:23

History of violence

Kuzyk reported that Basil Borutski choked her and burned her antique rocking horse, a childhood toy. Borutski was sentenced to 19 months in jail and was released nine months ago, despite the fact that — according to court records —he refused to sign an order to stay away from Kuzyk.

Borutski had previously been sentenced to 30 days in jail after threatening to kill Warmerdam's pet and threatening to hurt one of her relatives in July 2012. Her friend Genevieve Way told CBC News that Warmerdam "took all the steps she could to protect herself against Basil."

We hear from women routinely that the offences that men commit against them are not treated seriously in the criminal justice system.- Leighann Burns, Harmony House

On Tuesday, Borutski was arrested for allegedly killing both women. He was also accused of killing Carol Culleton, a woman he had befriended while helping her work on her cottage.

Borutski told a neighbour in Palmer Rapids that "karma" was going to get Culleton just days before she was found dead. He told his neighbour Shirl-Lynn Roesler that he was dating Culleton but that she had been flirting with other men.

Leighann Burns, the executive director of Ottawa women's shelter Harmony House, said many women feel that abusive men are not monitored closely enough after being released from jail, and that conditions placed on those who are released can, in some cases, easily be ignored.

"We hear from women routinely that the offences that men commit against them are not treated seriously in the criminal justice system," Burns said.

"Somebody who is lethally violent, who has clearly got no respect for the system or any sanctions that are meted out — there's not much that can be done, other than to lock him up or keep her hidden," she said. "Because if they are intent on using lethal violence, signing a piece of paper is not going to do much to stop that."

'Failure of the system'

In Ontario, victims of crime can register to receive automated phone messages alerting them to any change in a offender's status in the provincial correctional system.

The Correctional Service of Canada also has a registration system for victims of crime to be notified about offenders in federal prisons.

It's unknown whether Kuzyk or Warmerdam were notified of Borutski's December 2014 release.

"Women are often assured that they'll get notice if someone is released, but it's certainly not unusual in my experience that women don't get notice," Burns said.

I'm confused at why there was not more protection — not only Anastasia but the other women involved in his life.- Corinne Higgins

"It is a failure of the system. Women should know if somebody who is potentially harmful to them is going to be released."

Corinne Higgins, the owner of the Wilno Tavern, where Kuzyk worked before launching a real-estate career, said she was shocked Borutski would be allowed to return to the small community after he was released from jail.

"I'm confused at why there was not more protection — not only [for] Anastasia but the other women involved in his life," Higgins said. "To have him back in the same community with women he has been so violent with? To me that's rather insensitive, to say the least, and downright negligent."

Dunlop said that the allegations against Borutski highlight how the justice system alone cannot tackle the issue of domestic abuse.

"This is a terrible tragedy that happened, there's no question about that," Dunlop said. "And it's something that we need to analyze as time goes by to see, is there something else that not just police but, frankly, society can do different?"