CAMBRIDGE, ONT. — Since 2002, Bill and Michelle Smits’ house at the end of Westcliffe Way in Cambridge, Ont., represented a high in their 29-year relationship.
“Built it myself,” says Bill proudly. He is a framer by trade.
He remembers the day in 2002 that they moved in as “probably the most exciting day of our lives.”
But that dream and their happy family were shattered last Tuesday while he was in the air returning from a trip to see their daughter in B.C. Bill only found out via a phone call after touching down at the airport.
Police say Michelle Smits made sure to drop the family pets off at a relative’s place before allegedly setting her family’s home on fire and taking off in their vehicle.
She hasn’t been seen since, and Waterloo regional police have issued an arrest warrant on a charge of arson.
“As a result of the investigation, investigators believe that she is not in the area, however, may have left to go to the United States,” says Staff Sgt. Mike Haffner.
He wouldn’t elaborate on what leads them to believe that, but adds that Michelle Smits could face additional charges.
Bill Smits says he was absolutely blindsided. He says his wife showed no outward signs of mental illness or of being unhappy in their relationship.
Their daughter Chantelle, who’s busy planning her summer wedding, has flown into town to help Bill try and regroup.
They spend much of their time figuring out what documents he has to reapply for, and what money he has left. Bill says Michelle was responsible for finances in their family; taking their earnings and paying the bills with them.
But when he went to the bank he says he was notified she hadn’t made a mortgage payment in 10 months, and that he’s not insured to cover the damage to his home, totalling at least $80,000 because “insurance payments weren’t made.”
“We had fire insurance for 14 years, I missed two payments and they cut me off and this is where I’m left standing. I’ve talked to lawyers, they tell me there’s nothing I can do.”
Seeing the situation her father is in while at the same time hoping her mother is okay, Chantelle says she’s torn between several emotions.
“One morning I wake up and I’m angry at her. The next morning I’m hurt. The next I’m crying.”
Throughout his years in construction, Bill Smits says he’s helped build several homes around Waterloo region. Now the family is hoping the community can help him rebuild his own.
They’ve launched a crowdfunding page on GoFundMe titled “Smits House Fire,” in hopes of raising $100,000 from online donors.
In the meantime, Smits, broken-hearted, has been moving around between relatives’ homes in Kitchener. He’s hoping to find an apartment soon. He and his daughter just want their family to be whole again.
“Please baby, turn yourself in,” he urges his wife, tears welled in his eyes.
“She needs help.”
© 2016 Shaw Media