Inquest into murders of 3 women in Renfrew County begins Monday

An inquest into the murders of three women in and around Renfrew County in 2015 begins this morning in Pembroke, Ont., nearly seven years later.

Coroner's office says focus is on challenges of facing domestic violence in rural areas

From left to right, Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton were murdered in September 2015. (CBC News)

An inquest into the murders of three women in and around Renfrew County in 2015 begins Monday in Pembroke, Ont., nearly seven years later.

According to Ontario's chief coroner's office, this is the fourth inquest to focus on intimate partner violence in the province.

But unlike the others, this will focus on domestic violence in rural areas and on the particular challenges faced by victims living outside cities.

Recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future are not guaranteed but are likely.

On Sept. 22, 2015, 66-year-old Carol Culleton, 36-year-old Anastasia Kuzyk and 48-year-old Nathalie Warmerdam were murdered by Basil Borutski at three separate locations in the sprawling Renfrew County area west of Ottawa.

He had known all of them, and had a criminal history of choking Kuzyk and threatening Warmerdam's family. Both women were his former partners.

The three parties of standing are End Violence Against Women Renfrew County (a coalition of organizations and stakeholders focused on intimate partner violence), Valerie Warmerdam (Nathalie Warmerdam's daughter), and the Ontario government.

Leslie Reaume will preside the inquest, with Prabhu Rajan and Christine McGoey serving as inquest counsel.

Focus on domestic violence in rural settings

The inquest is expected to last 15 days and hear from about 30 witnesses at the Best Western Pembroke Inn and Conference Centre.

Witnesses will include relatives and friends, Renfrew County residents, law enforcement, service providers and others.

Eight public policy issues to be explored include:

  1. Risk factors for intimate partner violence and femicide in rural communities.
  2. Challenges that victims face reporting violence and accessing protective and supportive services.
  3. The role of firearms in rural femicides and the perpetrator's access to firearms in this case.
  4. Borutski's history of violence, previous interactions with the justice system, risk factors, signs of escalating risk, and missed intervention opportunities.
  5. Police and justice system policies and practices relevant to intimate partner violence generally and specifically to the victims and perpetrator in this case.
  6. Barriers to safety planning including connectivity for electronic monitoring, notifications to victims when a perpetrator is at large, protocols for first responders, enforcing protective orders and self-protection efforts by victims.
  7. Community awareness and attitudes about intimate partner violence and femicide. The resources and tools communities need to prioritize victims' safety and respond effectively to escalating offenders.
  8. Alternatives to traditional criminal justice responses to intimate partner violence including restorative justice and public health models and well as wrap-around services for victims in crisis.

In 2017, Borutski was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 70 years, long after he is expected to die. He is now 64 years old.