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Fatality inquiry into Alberta mental health worker’s death hears killer’s violent history

WATCH ABOVE: A fatality inquiry into the death of Valerie Wolski heard Monday that her killer had a long history of violence. Fletcher Kent has more from Camrose.

A fatality inquiry began Monday into the death of a Camrose mental health worker who was killed in a client’s home in 2011.

Valerie Wolski, who was 41, was alone and providing care to Terrence Wade Saddleback in February 2011 when she was strangled.

Saddleback was found mentally unfit to stand trial after being charged with manslaughter.

READ MORE: No charges to be laid in strangulation of Alberta health worker in care home

In court on Monday, the inquiry heard about what led up to Wolski’s death and what one community organization knew about Saddleback.

A Camrose police officer testified about walking into the crime scene in 2011 and seeing Wolski lying on the ground by the couch. Saddleback was sitting on the couch and clumps of Wolski’s hair were spread around the home.

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The officer described interviewing Saddleback later, who said: “don’t punch Val, don’t hit Val, don’t pull her hair.”

Marilyn Conner also testified Monday. She is the executive director of a Wetaskiwin-area community organization that cared for Saddleback for 19 years.

Conner described hundreds of incidents involving Saddleback, saying he was aggressive, violent and pulled hair.

“His actions sometimes did not seem to be provoked by anything. He could be fine one moment and then would lunge,” she explained. “We had hundreds of incident reports across the years. Volatile and explosive at times. We couldn’t predict.

“I can tell you seeing what I saw, hearing what I heard, decades of aggressive behaviour. It was really scary just walking in. For me, I felt there was something else going on with him that was beyond our capacity.”

READ MORE: Alberta orders fatality inquiry into death of mental health worker at home

By 2009, Conner said all but two staff members refused to work with Saddleback. That’s when a serious incident happened. A staff member was working with a client when Saddleback said hi to her. He then proceeded to pick her up by the hair and throw her into a table, court heard Monday.

The organization told the province it could no longer care for Saddleback because he was too dangerous and staff were afraid of him. Staff members offered to share their experiences and knowledge of working with Saddleback with whoever took over his care, but Conner said that meeting never happened.

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Conner said what she wants to see out of this inquiry is complete transparency, so everyone knows what they’re getting into when they take on a new client.

The fatality inquiry is scheduled to last two weeks. Thirty-five witnesses are expected to testify.

Graham Jones, Saddleback’s legal guardian, previously said he warned the Canadian Mental Health Association that they needed to be careful with him, but his concerns were shrugged off.

A preliminary report released prior to the inquiry by Occupational Health and Safety said the province’s Persons With Developmental Disabilities Board failed to warn Wolski or her employer that Saddleback was violent and dangerous.

With files from Fletcher Kent, Global News.