Triple murder trial hears letter to victim

In a letter sent to a homicide victim prior to her killing, the writer says "the flame that once burned bright between" them "still flickers" in her, and that they were betrayed by a "false friend," the trial of accused triple murderer Basil Borutski heard Thursday.

Letter to Carol Culleton postmarked day before 3 women killed

Carol Culleton, 66, was one of three women found dead on Sept. 22, 2015. A friend of hers testified at her accused killer's trial Friday that he was afraid for her in the months leading up to her death. (Facebook)

In a letter sent to a homicide victim prior to her killing, the writer says "the flame that once burned bright between" them "still flickers" in her, and that they were betrayed by a "false friend," the trial of accused triple murderer Basil Borutski heard Thursday.

Borutski, now 59, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of 66-year-old Carol Culleton, 36-year-old Anastasia Kuzyk and 48-year-old Nathalie Warmerdam. Their bodies were found at three separate crime scenes in and around the small community of Wilno, Ont., the morning of Sept. 22, 2015.

His trial before a judge and jury began last week but Borutski has refused to speak or participate so far, forcing the court to enter a plea of not guilty on his behalf.

Crown attorney Julie Scott called Culleton's brother, Kevin Culleton, to the stand Thursday morning.

He lives in Alberta and travelled to the Ottawa area for his sister's funeral shortly after her death, he testified. After staying one night in Kemptville, Ont., he and his sister and her partner stayed at Carol Culleton's house near the community of North Gower in rural south Ottawa.

Letter postmarked day before killings

A day or two later, next-door neighbours came to the house to offer their condolences and brought with them a large bundle of Carol Culleton's mail, which they said they'd been collecting, Kevin Culleton testified.

Among the papers, which he laid out on a table, was an unopened envelope postmarked Sept. 21, 2015, in Palmer Rapids, Ont. Postmarks indicate where and when mailed items are delivered into the care of the postal service.

Court earlier heard that Borutski lived in Palmer Rapids at the time of the killings.

"I knew the accused was from there," Kevin Culleton told court. "... I knew it would be evidence."

After opening the letter, reading it and sharing its contents with his family, he testified he called police to notify them "probably the next day."

Basil Borutski has not spoken in court during his trial so far, even though he's representing himself. (Sketch by Laurie Foster-MacLeod/CBC)

'I want nothing from you'

The letter, read in court by Scott, talks first about Carol Culleton's cottage, its positive energy, and the roof work the writer wanted to do to preserve the plans she and her late spouse Bob had for retiring there.

The writer says they can feel Bob's "positive energy" while working at the cottage, and that they even sometimes found things after asking Bob where they were. "It's karma, good karma," the letter reads.

"Had Bob and I known each other more than our brief meeting in the tavern, I would never have slept with you, I would never have allowed myself to think of you in a loving manner. I have morals and scruples, things I believe in, mostly right and wrong," it reads.

"I want nothing from you, nothing material. Not money, not your cottage, not your house, not your car, not your boats, not anything. What I see in you is a kind, loving, caring, sweet, funny, dreamy, hurt and confused angel."

Echoes from police confession

"I know it's hard for you to see me for what I really am because of all that bad, wrong, negative publicity, gossip out there about me. That's OK. I understand," the letter continues.

The writer then talks about the initial texts they exchanged "when we were in love," that love scared the writer but didn't scare Culleton, that she wanted more, but that the writer wanted time and "ran to be able to think.

"I went to a false friend. I should have went to the positive you. I went to the negative, my false friend. I was betrayed, you were betrayed, by my false friend. You say you hate her because you know she separated us, yet you blame me. I accept the blame ... but the decision wasn't to leave you for her, my decision was to go to who I believed was my friend, my daughter," the letter reads.

The writer says they talked to this false friend about Culleton, and that the friend "hated" them for it.

"She had an ulterior motive: money. You were her stumbling block to getting it. She tried to take you out of the picture, my mind, she couldn't. ... She tried to get me to sleep with her so I'd forget about you. It didn't work. I couldn't," the letter reads.

The false friend is never identified, but the reference to the daughter the writer couldn't sleep with echoes Borutski's videotaped interview with police, which was played in court Thursday, Friday and Monday.

In it, Borutski told police he couldn't have sex with the second homicide victim, Anastasia Kuzyk, when she wanted to, and that a psychologist told him it was because he thought of her more as a daughter than anything else.

'It's not too late'

"When I told her no more renovations, no more money, no more anything, she went ballistic. Hate, anger, and revenge. This all because I told her I was going to try to salvage what you and I had. I paid dearly for that choice, a year in jail for something I didn't do," the letter continues.

Court earlier heard that Borutski was convicted of offences against Kuzyk in 2014.

"...I know the flame that once burned bright between us has been all but put out by my false friend. But it is still flickering in you. I see it, I feel it, you say it, then you get negative thoughts," the letter reads.

"Talk to me. It's not too late," it ends.

Borutski still uncommunicative

As he has throughout his trial so far, Borutski sat in the prisoner's box Thursday without speaking or participating, despite the fact he's representing himself.

But he appeared dressed up for the first time, wearing a loose grey-blue long-sleeved button-up dress shirt and khaki work pants instead of the loose white T-shirt and dark grey sweatpants he had been wearing regularly.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger has repeatedly told Borutski and the court that his silence is being interpreted as acquiescence to the proceedings.

The trial began Thursday with Maranger instructing the jury to disregard a line of testimony given Wednesday by Borutski's neighbour, Shirl Roesler. She testified that Borutski told her Culleton told him she was afraid of him. 

"It is not evidence in this case," Maranger told the jury.

Handwritten signs discovered on cottage property

Court also heard testimony Thursday from Catherine Pitts, the real estate agent who discovered Culleton's body alongside people she knew who lived next to the cottage.

Court also heard from the paramedics and police officers who arrived at the scene, including OPP Const. Laurence Hall, a forensic identification officer from Belleville, and OPP Sgt. Jane Ramsay, who took photos and videos of the cottage area. They discovered a number of handwritten signs in black ink scattered throughout the property, including a series on scraps of wood near a fire pit.

"Yes it is a safe place for a fire - I have had many here," one sign reads.

"Your fire is ready. Just light. I tried to think of everything to make your first days of retirement as enjoyable as possible," reads another. "Happy happy happy," reads another.

Borutski's wallet left in car

Another sign on a deck reads, "You wouldn't let me build you a railing so I thought a few extra retirement mug lights would help you see the edge before you fall."

They also found a corkscrew engraved with the words "Basil" and "Xmas 2009."

A car left at the scene and seized by police, which court earlier heard belonged to Roesler and was borrowed by Borutski to get to Culleton's cottage, contained Borutski's wallet and several water bottles, the jury heard Thursday.

The trial continues Friday.