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Ottawa Valley nightmare ends, but questions remain about how the judicial system handled Basil Borutski's cases

By Andrew Duffy

Police photo of Basil Borutski following his arrest on Sept. 22, 2015.

Police photo of Basil Borutski following his arrest on Sept. 22, 2015.

The nightmare that was Basil Borutski can no longer harm the people of the Ottawa Valley, but his trail of terror and murder continues to raise troubling questions about the judicial system's handling of his case.

Borutski, 60, was found guilty Friday on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder -- an outcome welcomed by those who lived in the same place as the volatile former millwright.

"Thank goodness he's gone," said John Dixon, who lived for years across the street from Borutski on Round Lake Road. "It's a blessing that it's over."

Dixon said he hopes the verdict brings some closure to the families of the three murdered women. "I know they've been going through absolute hell," he said.

Janice Visneskie-Moore, mayor of the Township of Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards, grew up with Borutski near Round Lake. "I'm truly, truly glad that justice has been served," she said. "I can't imagine how much the families have been through, and I hope that we as a community can be there for them and help them through this."

Julie Lalonde was working at the Women's Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew County and locked inside the building on the day that Borutski went on his murderous rampage in September 2015.

"I'm glad it's over," said Lalonde, a women's rights advocate and public educator. "But I don't think I've ever seen a case with so many systemic failures in my 15 years of work: There's just so many failures that it's astounding."

Borutski left in his wake three dead women -- Carol Culleton, 66, Anastasia Kuzyk, 36, and Nathalie Warmerdam, 48 -- and a host of unanswered questions, some of which were enumerated Friday by a coalition of women's groups in the region.

"Borutski's case shows how we continue to fail women in this province," said a joint statement by the coalition, which includes the Women's Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew County, Lanark County Interval House and Ottawa's Harmony House.

Among the questions they raised:

Why was Borutski released from custody after serving a jail term for assaulting Kuzyk even though he refused to sign a non-contact order?Why was Borutski never held to account for failing to participate in a court-ordered partner assault education program? (His trial heard that Borutski did not attend a single session.) How was Borutski able to obtain a gun and ammunition when he had a long history of threatening, harassing and assaulting women?

The Borutski case, the coalition said, exposes the need to treat stalking as serious criminal offence while also highlighting the lack of resources for rural women -- particularly when it comes to emergency shelters.

"The deaths of these three women were preventable," the coalition said. "Borutski's murder of Carol, Anastasia and Nathalie should serve as a wake-up call for Ontario to do better and to truly commit to the difficult but necessary work of eradicating violence against women."

Holly Campbell, organizer of an Ottawa group known as 'Because Wilno,' called on all three levels of government to better fund the "patchwork" of services now in place to help women escape violent men.

Lalonde said Borutski manipulated the judicial system for three decades: He repeatedly intimidated witnesses and managed to get charges dismissed or reduced starting in 1985. It was the first of three occasions in which Borutski would answer charges of assaulting his ex-wife, Mary Ann Mask, but each time he walked out of court a free man.

"Basil Borutski had so many huge red flags," Lalonde said, "but he was able to live in the community with his victims and walk around like a free man. It's horrifying."

-With files from Aedan Helmer