Opinion Column

"Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming"

By Rev. Eric Strachan

Nathalie Warmerdam, Carol Culleton and Anastasia Kuzyk were found murdered in Renfrew County on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015.

Nathalie Warmerdam, Carol Culleton and Anastasia Kuzyk were found murdered in Renfrew County on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015.

From all accounts one word best described Basil Borutski. Angry. And this past week the 57 year-old’s internalised anger erupted in a volcanic outburst leaving three innocent women shot to death.

It is no wonder the Bible in its book of wisdom writes with clarity, “Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming.” (The Bible, Proverbs 27:4) Today in many neighbourhoods across the Ottawa Valley, families, friends and neighbours of 48 year-old Natalie Warmardam of Bonnechere Valley, 36 year-old Anastasia Kuzyk of Wilno, and 66 year-old Carol Culleton of Barry’s Bay, are shaking their heads in shock and sheer unbelief, and dealing with a profound grief that simply cannot be consoled.

In a Pembroke courtroom this past Thursday Borutski was charged with three counts of first degree murder. Without question the savagery committed against these three women in this violent crime spree will go down in local history as one of the most despicable of all crimes ever committed here. The Upper Ottawa Valley is certainly no stranger to violent crimes committed against women in recent history. In 1972 Loretta Ostroskie, 50, of Wilno, was shot to death by her husband of 18 months.

On April 7, 1973, Delores Lenser, 37, and her mother Charlotte Wagner, 54, of Golden Lake, were both shot to death by Delores’ husband. In 1991, 16 year-old Ann-Marie Bloskie of Barry’s Bay was brutally murdered by a young offender. In February 2002, 36 year-old Glenda LaSalle of Barry’s Bay was shot to death by her common-law partner. The foregoing list is by no means complete, far from it, but suffice to say that too many women here in the Valley have been the victims of abuse and domestic violence at the hands of angry men with guns.

When I read as I am today the online court documents pertaining to the property settlement civil court case between Borutski and his estranged wife Mary Ann in 2011, I’m astounded at the number of references to Basil’s anger.

“Mary Ann alleges a steady regimen of domestic violence,” says the document. “This was a wretched marital relationship”. “Basil was violent, easily agitated and tyrannical towards his family members”. A daughter testified to having vivid memories of “hair pulling, slapping and an attempt to push Mary Ann from the moving vehicle.”

When the marriage dissolved and Mary Ann arrived home after the final separation she was “bloodied and dirty,” says the report. It is little wonder that the Bible says to women and others, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily-angered.” (The Bible, Proverbs 22:24) As a former jail chaplain here in Pembroke for about 14 years, I had to ask myself a series of relevant questions. “How come this guy, Basil Borutski, wasn’t still in jail, for he clearly was a threat to society?”

“Were Corrections Canada officials convinced upon his release from prison that there was no possibility of him violently re-offending? Didn’t his continual recidivism (habitual re-offending) clearly indicate that he just didn’t get it? Was it ever mandated while he was incarcerated that he must participate in an Anger Management course? If so, how did he score?

Since the Pembroke Jail closed in 2004, I have maintained contact with some of the men I met behind bars. One in particular committed a terrible murder, shooting a young woman in the prime of her life. It was an act of violence perpetrated by an angry man with a gun. During my friend’s incarceration he became a Christian. I have sat in the courtyard of the former Kingston Penitentiary on visitation day and seen my friend’s tears as he mentally revisited the crime scene. Nothing can ever bring back the young life he took.

A grieving family years after will always have a vacuum in their life, their tears, will still flow. Having spent about twelve years in prison and now released, my friend called me some months ago. He had just been baptised. I asked him in the course of our conversation, “What’s the key to successful integration back into society for you without re-offending and finding yourself back in jail?”

The question is a relevant one, for the rate of recidivism here in Canada is estimated by some to be as high as 35-40%, meaning that one in every three re-offend. My friend responded by saying, “Eric, I’m a new man, I have Jesus Christ in my life. I belong to a church where I’m loved and accepted. I’m part of an ‘Accountability and Support Group,’ I’m responsible to the men in that group for my actions and behaviour. They support me, and have the right to counsel and discipline me if and when necessary.

I trust them implicitly for I know they want the very best for my life. Together with that I have a Parole Officer with whom I meet regularly.” I wonder if this tragedy in the Valley could have been averted if Basil Borutski had followed in the footsteps of my friend.

Unquestionably, without a doubt, it would have. Jesus would have changed him, got to the source and root of his anger and healed him, and if he would have surrendered his tough guy image, “Nobody messes with me and gets away with it,” and committed himself to a group of guys who would speak truth to him, things could have been so different. If only…..if only…..if only. “An angry man stirs up dissension,” says the Bible, “and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.” (The Bible, Proverbs 29:22).

We’ve witnessed the all too clear results of the actions of someone who was a walking time-bomb, and as a result, we mourn with those who mourn today, the tragic loss of these three women, Anastasia, Carol, and Natalie.