Basil Borutski had 'intention to kill,' Crown asserts as trial draws to close

Basil Borutski intended to kill each of his three victims on Sept. 22, 2015, Crown attorney Jeffery Richardson argued during his closing statement at Borutski's trial Tuesday. But a lawyer appointed to ensure Borutski gets a fair trial questioned whether he had a formulated plan.

'These are the actions of a person who intended to murder 3 women'

From left, Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton were killed Sept. 22, 2015. The trial of the man accused of murdering them heard closing statements Tuesday. (CBC News)

Basil Borutski left his apartment the morning of Sept. 22, 2015, intending to kill each of his three victims, Crown attorney Jeffery Richardson argued during his closing statement at Borutski's trial Tuesday.

Convictions on all three counts of first-degree murder are warranted, Richardson argued, because there's evidence of planning and deliberation, or in Carol Culleton's case, criminal harassment.

Borutski took the shotgun with him when he left that morning, left early enough to surprise everyone, drove long distances to each of the victims and killed them in a kind of reverse chronological order, starting with one he felt had caused his freshest emotional wounds.

He headed east in a straight line, shot Anastasia Kuzyk as she tried to hide from him, chased Nathalie Warmerdam through her house to shoot her, and criminally harassed Culleton with increasingly threatening behaviour and texts before ending her life by strangling her.

"These are the actions of a person who intended to murder three women," Richardson said.

Borutski, 60, is representing himself on three charges of first-degree murder at his Ontario Superior Court trial in Ottawa, but he hasn't spoken a word so far. The court entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf after Borutski failed to enter one himself.

The bodies of Culleton, 66, Kuzyk, 36, and Warmerdam, 48, were found at three separate crime scenes in Renfrew County on Sept. 22, 2015 — Culleton at her cottage near Combermere, Ont., Kuzyk at her house in Wilno, and Wamerdam at her house near Eganville, Ont.

Richardson told the six men and five women of the jury — one juror was discharged from the rest of the trial Tuesday due to a family emergency — that for Borutski, the three killings were essentially a single transaction. They all told lies, and they all paid for it.

When he texted his brother as he awaited his arrest in a field that "yes I did it....they took my life away on me," "The guilty have paid...justice finally," and "I done what I had to do....justice...." Borutski essentially admitted to causing their deaths unlawfully and with intention, Richardson argued.

No evidence of 'diminished intention'

In his five-hour confession to police the day after the killings Borutski talked about feeling like God was telling him where to go that morning, that he could see himself as if he were watching through a camera, and that he felt like a zombie.

But Richardson cautioned the jury not to accept an argument of "diminished intention."

"I say to you, these are the contrivances of a man who needs to explain the unspeakable things that he has done, and who better to use to shield his responsibility for what he has done than God?" Richardson asked the jury.

He also asked them not to believe Borutski may not have intended to kill Culleton because he didn't bring the shotgun with him when he walked up to her cottage. Borutski wrapped the TV cable around her mouth and neck six times to strangle her, even as she tried to fight him off.

"[Consider] how long it takes, how much effort it takes as she is fighting for her life. That adds up to an intention to kill," Richardson said.

Friendship with Culleton sours

For Borutski, Richardson argued, Culleton's cottage was very much tied up in his relationship with her. He knew she needed him to work on it and that she couldn't sell it as long as he was doing so. He imagined it as his future home with her, a place they'd live happily ever after.

But by Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, that dream was shattered, Richardson told the jury. Culleton told him just a day earlier that she'd reunited with her boyfriend, and asked Borutski to stop bothering her.

Just before midnight on Sept. 21, surveillance video shows Borutski leaving his apartment. Richardson told the jury he believes it was to retrieve the sawed-off shotgun he'd earlier hidden in the bush.

Basil Borutski, 60, sat silent an unresponsive in court on Tuesday, as he has throughout his trial. (Sketch by Laurie Foster-MacLeod)

"The plan is set," Richardson told the jury, and when Borutski left his apartment the next morning in the same clothes in which he was arrested — clothes that ended up stained with blood from Culleton and Warmerdam — "Borutski methodically executed his plan perfectly."

In the weeks leading up to Culleton's death she expressed her fear of Borutski in varying ways to "no less than eight people," Richardson said. She also took pictures of the flowers Borutski tore up in a fit of rage after he saw her sitting on another man's knee on Labour Day weekend, and more pictures of the strange handwritten signs she discovered all over her property on Sept. 21. Finally, she told two friends she'd call 911 that night if anything happened.

The fact that she didn't call police, and that she didn't go home at the request of her worried boyfriend that night, is not evidence that she wasn't afraid, Richardson argued. She was worried about Borutski's behaviour and talked about it often. But at the same time, she wanted to get the cottage up for sale the following morning.

And despite her fear, Richardson said, she believed she could handle him, that she could diffuse the situation. She believed it to her dying breaths, Richardson said, recalling her last words to Borutski — "This is not you, Basil, this is not you."

Amicus questions planning

After a lunch break, Borutski remained silent when asked by Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger if he wanted to make a closing statement.

Amicus curiae James Foord, appointed to ensure Borutski gets a fair trial, then addressed the jury, saying there isn't any doubt about who did the killing, but whether Borutski had a previously formulated scheme that he executed perfectly.

He asked the jury to weigh Borutski's mental state, citing that Borutski told police in his statement he hadn't eaten in days, felt like a zombie, like he was watching himself, that he didn't know where he was going, felt like his head was going to explode and was trying to get help. A neighbour also testified Borutski wasn't himself the night before the killings and said things that didn't make sense.

The evidence suggests Borutski was "unravelling," Foord told the jury.

And while it's reasonable to assume Borutski was thinking about killing the night before as he spoke to his neighbour about the difference between killing and murder, did that constitute a real plan?

Relationship with victim 'complex'

As for whether Culleton was being criminally harassed leading up to the killings, Foord argued that testimony from a number of witnesses spoke to Culleton's annoyance and aggravation, but not necessarily to her fear.

It appears by text messages between Borutski and Culleton that their relationship was "complex," and that Culleton, "like we all do," managed what she told people about it, he argued.

She had dated Borutski two years earlier. She told people she wasn't in a relationship with him shortly before the killings, and wouldn't be with someone of his "rough biker" type, but she didn't refute texts Borutski sent her suggesting the two had recently been intimate, Foord said.

The jury should think about the complex nature of their relationship as they weigh whether she really feared him, Foord argued, adding that determining the degree of Borutski's culpability — first-degree murder, second-degree murder or manslaughter — is as important as determining his guilt.

Maranger is expected to give the jury instructions Wednesday morning, after which they'll begin deliberations.