A killer's mother knows the pain facing Steven O'Shaughnessy's family

Shirley Wourms knows the pain Steven O'Shaughnessy's family is facing. Wourm's son killed his wife and child and committed suicide in 2012. O'Shaughnessy is the man identified by police as having killed Latasha Gosling and three of her children in Tisdale, Sask., before committing suicide.

Shirley Wourms's son, Darren, 26, killed his wife, Hayley, 23, and son Cayden, 2, in 2012

Darren and Hayley Wourms. (Submitted to CBC)
Gary and Shirley Wourms. (Submitted to CBC )
Shirley Wourms knows the torment and pain of grieving for a son who killed his family and himself.

Every time she hears about a murder-suicide on the news, Wourms has a physical and emotional reaction. This week, the quadruple homicide of Latasha Gosling and her three children in Tisdale, Sask., and the apparent suicide of the man responsible, Steven O'Shaughnessy, had the same effect.

"I just bawled," Wourms told CBC News.

Her son, Darren, 26, killed his wife, Hayley, 23, and son Cayden, 2, near his hometown of St. Walburg in May 2012.

A police investigation found all three died from shots fired by a rifle found at the scene. It happened on a Sunday afternoon after the family visited home for a bridal shower.

God, what did you do with him?- Shirley Wourms

Nearly three years later, Wourms says a day doesn't pass that she doesn't feel flashes of pain, as well as the anguish of unanswered questions and missed warning signs.

Wourms believes the families involved in the Tisdale murder-suicide will be plagued by similar feelings.

O'Shaughnessy's family released a statement Friday saying "we will likely never know why this senseless act occurred." It noted that he had no history of violence but had continuing struggles with mental-health issues.

"I know exactly how they feel, and I would let them know I'm praying for them," Wourms told CBC News. Her son, she learned before the tragedy, was also struggling but it was not clear how serious things were.

Dangerous secrets

Darren Wourms's mental-health issues began just a few months before the murder-suicide, and were mostly hidden from extended family.

In a visit home in March, Wourms said, Darren confided he was having problems.

"He said, 'I can't think. My head is spinning. I can't turn it off,'" Wourms recalled.

The deaths of Hayley Wourms, Cayden Wourms and Darren Wourms were confirmed by RCMP as being murder-suicide. (Facebook)

After his death, the family pieced together how his problems had escalated.

The junior engineer was working long shifts in the Fort McMurray, far away from his wife and son. He was unable to sleep and becoming increasingly stressed and paranoid. On April 24, 2012 RCMP received a 911 call from someone concerned about the family's well-being in their new home Airdrie, Alta.

Darren was taken to hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, prescribed anti-depressants and released. The information wasn't shared with his parents, Wourms said.

"The biggest thing is, they hid it all — both Darren and Hayley — and it didn't give us the opportunity to help them," she said.

On that fateful weekend, Wourms recalled, the couple was acting strange: Hayley seemed scared and Darren seemed distant.

But Wourms, like others, didn't want to pry, noting that some of the couple's friends knew about the troubles Darren was facing but didn't want to expose them.

Wourms has advice for anyone who is worried about a friend or family member: "You go tell somebody, because they're not. They're trying to hide it. There are some things you can keep a secret, and some things you can't."

Picking up the pieces

"I know when this happened with Darren, I wanted to die. I didn't want to be here," Wourms said.

She credits her husband and eight other children for pulling her out of paralyzing sadness. She's also grateful for community support in the town of St. Walburg.

She said she still hasn't made peace with what happened, but has managed to force herself to move forward.

"You can't linger on the past because you have other family that you need to take care of and be with," she said.

Wourms, a deeply religious woman, said she continues to be haunted by one question — a question for God.

"The comfort that I don't have is, where's my Darren? Is he in hell? Is he in purgatory? Is he in heaven? God, what did you do with him?"


Bonnie Allen

Senior Reporter

Bonnie Allen is a senior reporter for CBC News based in Saskatchewan. Before returning to Canada in 2013, Allen spent four years reporting from across Africa, including Libya, South Sudan, Liberia and Sierra Leone. She holds a master's in international human rights law from the University of Oxford. @bonnieallenCBC


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?