OTTAWA – Much as he’d done throughout his two-month trial, Basil Borutski betrayed little emotion on Friday as a jury found him guilty in the deaths of three former partners who were brutally killed two years ago during an hour-long, revenge-fuelled rampage across the Ottawa Valley.
Borutski, 60, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the point-blank shotgun killings of 36-year-old Anastasia Kuzyk and 48-year-old Nathalie Warmerdam, and guilty of a second-degree murder charge in the strangling death of Carol Culleton, 66.
All three murders took place on Sept. 22, 2015, in the space of less than an hour. They left advocates denouncing the justice system and urging politicians to go beyond rhetoric on violence against women, given Borutski’s well-known reputation among locals in the community for threats and a propensity towards violence.
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Clad in a grey shirt and slacks, black Croc sandals and leg chains, Borutski remained expressionless and stared straight ahead throughout the verdict, which it took the jury some 14 hours to reach. When it was over, police ushered him out of the prisoner’s box by police.
A murder conviction carries an automatic life prison sentence. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 5 in Pembroke, Ont., to determine the specifics around when he might become eligible for parole.
Federal legislation was passed in 2011 that allows judges to impose consecutive 25-year periods of parole ineligibility in cases that involve multiple murder convictions. Judges can consider factors such as the offender’s character, the circumstances of the offence and any recommendations from the jury.
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Prior to the murders, Borutski – who chose to forgo having a lawyer during the trial, but barely said a word during the proceedings – had twice spent time in jail after two of the women accused him of assault and uttering threats.
Ontario Provincial Police Det. Insp. Mark Zulinski, who served as case manager for the incidents, said outside the courthouse that police respect the jury’s findings and appreciate the work of the courts.
He also expressed sympathy for the victims’ families, their close friends and the members of their community.
“I hope … by the conclusion of these proceedings that these people could move forward in their healing processes and move on with their lives,” Zulinski said.
Leighann Burns, executive director of Ottawa-based women’s shelter Harmony House, said Borutski’s reputation as a violent and dangerous person was well-known in and around the Ontario community of Wilno, not far from where the three women lived.
She called the verdict a “condemnation” of the response to violence against women in Ontario and throughout Canada.
“If we couldn’t stop someone who was so visible and so dangerous, really, what does this say about this system?” Burns said outside the doors of the Ottawa courthouse.
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“These women were clearly living in fear and it was known he that posed a real risk to them.”
It’s high time the talk of ending violence against women translated into action, she added.
“What are we going to do to make things different for all the other women that come forward and disclose the violence in their lives?” Burns said. “How will we keep them safe? How will we keep them alive?”
Because Wilno, a victims’ rights group formed in the aftermath of the killings, also issued a statement on Friday urging lawmakers to do more to combat domestic violence.
“For too long, Canadians have looked away from violence in our homes that predominantly harms women and children in every neighbourhood, district, municipal ward and constituency of this country,” said the statement, which accused the justice system of failing Borutski’s victims.
In a videotaped interview played at trial, Borutski expressed a degree of remorse for his actions, which he said were fuelled by rage at what he considered to be the lies and betrayals of his victims.
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In the video, he described how he was acting like a “zombie” on the day in question, saying he’d originally planned to take his own life, but decided against it because he believed it was wrong to take an innocent life.
“I killed them because they were not innocent,” Borutski says in the video. “They were guilty. I was innocent. I’ve done nothing wrong.”
In his opening statement, Crown attorney Jeffery Richardson told the jury the trial was not a case of “whodunit.”
“The evidence is overwhelming that Basil Borutski murdered Carol, Anastasia and Nathalie,” Richardson said.
Borutski even told police the murders were “his kind of justice,” he added.
“He thought about it before he did it, and then he executed his plan perfectly.”
Richardson did not comment following Friday’s verdict.