PEMBROKE, Ont. – A 57-year-old man has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the separate slayings of three women whose deaths sparked a lockdown and manhunt in eastern Ontario on Tuesday.
Basil Borutski is set to appear in a Pembroke, Ont., courthouse later Wednesday to answer to the charges.
A woman’s support group held a vigil outside the court building as Borutski’s brother, meantime, said the family was devastated and in mourning for the three victims.
“Right now, my heart just goes out to the families … all our brothers and sisters, our hearts go out to all the victims,” a weary-sounding Will Borutski told The Canadian Press in an interview.
“We’re all just in disbelief. Right now the only ones we’re thinking about is the victims. The children, the families, the friends.”
Two of the victims – 36-year-old Anastasia Kuzyk and Natalie Warmardam, 48 – used to date his brother, Will Borutski said.
Borutski, bald with a moustache and goatee and wearing a light green T-shirt, made an appearance in a Pembroke, Ont., courtroom to answer to the charges. He was remanded in custody until Oct. 5.
The judge ordered him not to speak to a long list of family members and acquaintances.
Will Borutski said he’d had a falling-out with his brother about seven years ago, declining to provide details beyond saying there was a “disagreement” as he struggled to gather his thoughts in Round Lake, an Ottawa Valley cottage-country hamlet.
Will Borutski said his family is stunned by the arrest.
“There’s anger, embarrassment,” he said. “You just don’t know what to make of the whole thing.”
Still, Will Borutski said, the family is most focused on the families of the victims.
“The victims, the victims,” he said, his voice trailing off.
“Our hearts and souls go out to them. It’s unfair. All their hopes and dreams in life are gone.”
The Tuesday morning slayings of Kuzyk, Warmardam and 66-year-old Carol Culleton triggered a lockdown and manhunt in the ordinarily sleepy area of eastern Ontario.
Local residents said the deaths of three women, all slain within hours of one another, have thrown the community of about 300 people into a profound state of grief.
“It’s shocking to think that people that you know have come to this,” said Corinne Higgins, owner of the Wilno Tavern located in the heart of the village 130 kilometres west of Ottawa. “I’m out of words right now.”
Higgins personally knew Kuzyk, who lived in Wilno and worked at the tavern for a decade before leaving five years ago to pursue a real estate career.
Kuzyk had made a great success of that venture, Higgins said, adding that this wasn’t surprising to people who knew her.
“She was a really lovely lady,” Higgins said. “She was ambitious, she was personable, she was very attentive to customers and very easy to work with as a staff member.”
Higgins added she was surprised by the arrest of Basil Borutski, who was an occasional patron of the tavern.
“He wasn’t the most peaceful man, but nobody expects anything like that.”
The former millwright grew up in Round Lake before moving about 50 kilometres away to Palmer Rapids, his brother recalled. Court documents suggest he was getting by on disability payments following a job site injury and then, a few years later, a car accident.
Kuzyk’s home was the first crime scene the OPP visited on Tuesday, touching off an investigation that caused panic and fear in the area for hours.
Police said information they discovered at Kuzyk’s home led them to a nearby property, where they said they found the body of Warmardam, of Bonnechere Valley, Ont.
Later that morning, police in Bancroft, Ont., discovered the body Culleton of North Gower, Ont. Police did not release the cause of death, nor indicate if the victims were known to one another.
WATCH ABOVE: OPP Sgt. Kristine Rae updates the Basil Borutski triple homicide case, outside a Pembroke ONT courthouse on Wednesday afternoon.
Businesses and schools in and around Wilno were placed under lockdown as police hunted for a suspect in the slayings. The chase, which involved officers with both the Ottawa and provincial police, culminated in the arrest of Borutski near Ottawa a few hours later.
Gary Johnston, Warmardam’s neighbour, said he saw few indications of trouble during the nearly three years Basil Borutski lived with her on a farm in Foymount, Ont.
He added that Warmardam, 48, used to visit his home occasionally, but stopped doing so after Borutski moved in in 2010. The couple sold eggs from the farm property they maintained together, he said, adding Warmardam also worked as a nurse in a local hospice.
He said the project was something the mother of two had always wanted to pursue.
“She seemed pretty happy there because she’d come out of Toronto and she said she always wanted to live on a farm,” he said.
Basil Borutski was set to appear in a Pembroke, Ont., courthouse later Wednesday to answer to the first-degree murder charges.
A woman’s support group held a vigil outside the court building.
JoAnne Brooks, director of the Women’s Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew County, was among about two dozen women gathered outside the Pembroke courthouse.
“These are community women who wanted to do something today,” she said.
“When these events happen in communities, what happens is it triggers rawness for many women. We all live with the threat of violence … and I think that it’s important to be out and be publicly visible for the women who cannot come forward.”
With files from Terry Pedwell in Pembroke, Ont.