Kormendy sentence 'not a good message' for women, says head of women's shelter

Jose Rueda, the father of the little girl burned in a fire ignited by Kenneth Kormendy, said he feels the judge sided with the accused in this case and that justice was not served.

'It's another example of really how the criminal justice system has failed abused women and their children.'

Thom Rofle is the executive director of the Hiatus House, an emergency shelter for abused women in Windsor. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The head of an emergency shelter for abused women in Windsor calls the sentencing for Kenneth Kormendy "unbelievable" and a poor message for the community. 

A Windsor judge sentenced Kormendy to 11 years in prison for setting fire to a house with his ex-girlfriend and her two young daughters inside. However, he will serve seven years and 345 days in prison after credit for his time served.

"It's another example of really how the criminal justice system has failed abused women and their children," said Thom Rolfe, executive director of Hiatus House. 

"The message goes out to the public that you can try and kill somebody but because it was a domestic situation you're not going to get the same sentencing if I attacked you on the street."

Windsor Superior Court of Justice. (Derek Spalding/CBC)

Rolfe said that he routinely hears from women who haved turned to the justice system in the past but have been let down. 

"The sentencing in this case just sends that message again that we don't deal very well with these cases and abused women don't feel like the criminal justice system can really solve the problem."

Father of victim speaks out

Jose Rueda spoke with a disheartened tone on Tuesday, when he described how his family was feeling the day after a man was sentenced for burning down a home with his then 7-year-old daughter inside.

"The Canadian justice system is infamous for handing down very weak and unfair punishment to violent individuals," said Rueda. "I was not surprised — I was anticipating a disappointing result unfortunately."

Rueda was working as he watched the sentencing unfold, and was critical of Judge Christopher Bondy's language.

"He seemed to be siding with the offender in this case, stating 'this was an isolated case for him' that 'alcohol played a factor' however it's still a horrific crime and a little girl was victimized in a very savage way."

For Rueda, Kormendy's anonymity is another big issue.

"Nobody knows what he looks like, everybody knows his name but people like Michael Rafferty, Paul Bernardo, Dellen Millard — everybody knows what they look like," he said. "We are very worried that upon his release he might do this again."

Isabel Rueda suffered severe burns to her face and body in the blaze, and has limited use of her right hand. Her father said she has many surgeries ahead of her. 

"She still has a long way to go emotionally speaking," said Rueda. "However she's made great strides in her recovery as far as the severity of her injuries is concerned. She's trying to make the best out of her ordeal."

Rueda said he is keeping his daughter isolated from the court proceedings, but wants her to know when she's older how hard he has fought for her. 

"This is far from finished I will continue to seek justice for my daughter," he said, adding he plans to attend all of Kormendy's parole hearings and seek damages through civil courts.

"My hope is that when she's older she will learn how things transpired and this is why I feel it is important for me to speak on her behalf."