Opinion Column

PETAWAWA POINTS: The women and tragic stories behind the Renfrew County Women's Monument

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

Volunteers release three balloons into the air during a poignant candlelight vigil held on Sept. 30 at the Renfrew County Women's Monument in Petawawa. The vigil was held to honour the memories of Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton.

Volunteers release three balloons into the air during a poignant candlelight vigil held on Sept. 30 at the Renfrew County Women's Monument in Petawawa. The vigil was held to honour the memories of Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton.

On March 15, 2011, Michelle Cameron left her job at the J.L. Gray Building in downtown Deep River and drove home for lunch.

Waiting in the parking lot - unbeknownst to her - was her father-in-law, John Craig Cameron. Observing Michelle pull away from the building, Cameron abandoned his stakeout and followed the beautiful 27-year-old mother of two to her home on Claremount Road. Pulling up to the curb, he watched as the carefree AECL employee strolled into the residence before exiting the car.

In broad daylight, he withdrew the .308 rifle from the trunk and loaded it. Cameron walked up to a side door and entered the premises proceeding to the kitchen where encountered a startled Michelle. After telling her that he was "sorry it turned out this way," the 52-year-old auto parts manager raised the rifle and pulled the trigger.

Michelle fell forward as the first bullet struck her in the chest. After she collapsed to the floor, Cameron stood over Michelle and unmercifully shot her in the head. He then methodically packed away the rifle in his trunk and drove back to his home in Parry Sound, Ontario.

"Ultimately this was an execution. That's what this was," Crown Attorney Jason Nicol would tell a court two years later. "There was no justification, no excuse. His mental health issues had no role to play. He planned it. It was deliberate and he clearly intended to kill her."

Sitting in the back of the court room covering the two-week trial, the heinous act that claimed the life of Michelle Cameron was, perhaps, the most chilling thing I've ever heard in my 20 years as a reporter. The jury found Cameron guilty of first degree murder. He is now serving life in prison. Michelle got justice, but it doesn't relieve the grief that will stay with her family for the rest of their lives.

"Michelle was a very special person no matter what role she played in anyone's life," her father Jim Binkle told the court in his witness impact statement. "She made me so proud many times in her life all the way from graduating high school to getting her dream job at AECL. If she had a goal, she always achieved it. That is what made me so proud of her. Since you decided to take her away from us, all we are left with is a lot of what ifs."

Sadly, we have such a place where we can always pay tribute. I say sadly not because I disagree with its creation but sadly because we should need such a memorial at all. The Renfrew County Women's Monument stands along the Emerald Necklace Trail in Petawawa. It is a serene, picturesque park with tragic stories behind it. Dedicated in 2012, the poignant monument honours the memory of Renfrew County women abused or killed as a result of domestic violence.

On a large boulder near a statue of three women is inscribed the names of 15 women murdered by men in the County of Renfrew. It includes the names of two former county residents slain elsewhere. Soon, the names of Nathalie Warmerdam, Anastasia Kuzyk and Carol Culleton will be added. Thanks to the Renfrew County Committee for Abused Women we know the names and tragedies behind the 17 names on that monument:

Margaret Richardson, 46, of Pembroke. On Oct. 23, 1969, the mother of seven children and grandmother to five, was gunned down by her husband, Henry, who then shot himself.

Loretta Ostroskie, 50, of Wilno. On Jan. 1, 1972, Loretta was shot to death by her husband of 18 months, Michael. She was the mother of two sons from a previous marriage.

Delores Lenser, 37, and her mother, Charlotte Wagner, 54, of Golden Lake. On April 7, 1973, Delores was shot by her husband, Wallace, who also killed Charlotte. The assailant then shot himself. Delores' two-year-old son was home at the time but was not harmed.

Marysia Buraczewski, 23, of Renfrew. On July 22, 1981, police recovered Marysia's body from the Bonnechere River. In 1983, Leonard Shirley was convicted of her murder.

Maybelle Timms, 54, of Pembroke. On Nov. 30, 1982, the mother of four was stabbed to death by Gary Jones. During the attack, Maybelle's father suffered wounds after coming to her defence.

Karen Clancy, 32, of Pembroke. On Jan. 31, 1983, Karen was stabbed twice in the neck by Wayne Hepworth and left to bleed to death on her kitchen floor. Hepworth was later convicted of murder.

Joceline (Jackie) Florent, 37. On June 25, 1987, Jackie was killed by her estranged husband, Donald. She was the mother of two teenage children.

Ann Marie Bloskie, 16, of Barry's Bay. On June 26, 1991, Ann Marie, a student at Madawaska Valley District High School, was murdered by a 17-year-old young offender. She was the daughter of Martin and Dorothy Bloskie.

Glenda Kohlsmith, 42, of Arnprior. On April 22, 1994, Glenda was strangled to death by her estranged husband, Barry. She was the mother of two children.

Wanda Scully, 30, of Petawawa. On Feb. 23, 1995, Wanda was killed by her husband, John, who then shot himself. Her daughter, Jessica, was only 15 months old when she lost her mother.

Glenda LaSalle, 36, of Barry's Bay. On Feb.15, 2002, Glenda was shot to death by her common-law partner, Bryan Crogie, who was convicted of her murder. Her daughter, Glenda, was 16 years old at the time.

Carol Anne Brunet, 54, of Renfrew. On May 31, 2010, Carol Anne died from a stab wound she received from Dugald Jamieson. He later pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Michelle Cameron, 27, of Deep River. On March 15, 2011, town police found Michelle dead in her residence. Her father-in-law, John Cameron, was convicted of first degree murder. Michelle was the mother of two young children.

Ashley Boudreau, 24, of Deep River. On Jan. 17, 2010, police found Ashley dead in her Ottawa apartment. An investigation determined that she had been murdered by her boyfriend, who then committed suicide.

Maureen Macdonnell, 36, formerly of Petawawa. On Nov. 13, 2011, Maureen had been stabbed to death in Prince Edward Island. Her assailant, Richard McLean, committed suicide.

Let us pray for the families and let us pray to God that we never again experience such days as March 15, 2011 or Sept. 22, 2015. Let us pray that not one more name is inscribed forever on that rock.

sean.chase@sunmedia.ca