The sister of the woman whose body was recovered from a suspicious fire in Springhill, N.S., earlier this week says she believes her sister was killed in a tragic murder-suicide at the hands of her fiancée.
RCMP have since confirmed that the deaths were the result of a homicide suicide.
Although police have yet to release the identities of the two people found dead in the home Tuesday afternoon, friends confirm that they were Marc Poulin, 42, and Jennifer Semenec, 45, both of North Bay, ON.
Jessica Ridley said her sister Jennifer was also a mother, daughter and loyal friend who would do anything to help someone in need.
“She had the biggest heart and wanted to help anybody that would let her. She was a personal support worker with seniors, so that tells you right there…,” said Ridley.
She said Jennifer purchased the house December 2017. The couple were travelling back and forth from Ontario to Nova Scotia as they worked to fix the place up and were planning on staying in Springhill until just before Easter.
“Yes, I am angry, but my heart breaks for him as well, and I do have some forgiveness regarding the demons he was battling with PTSD.”
She said she only met her sister’s new fiancee a handful of times and knew only that the pair were happy, and excited to start their new life together.
A tribute photo of Poulin dressed in a Canadian Armed Forces uniform was shared in a public Facebook post by his son, Kyle.
In the post, he said, “I’m trying so hard to be strong for everyone but I can’t stop thinking about how much we all love you and miss you.”
He went on to say that Poulin was battling with PTSD, saying, “your demons were so loud that you couldn’t hear how much everyone was trying to help you and be there for you, I’m so sorry that you let them take over.”
Poulin’s cousin, Shane MacDonald, said Marc was like a big brother to him, saying he was the kind of guy who would do anything to protect the ones he loved.
“His military career started as ‘I need to support my family’, and turned into something he loved. And with his natural tendency to support and protect people, it was home,” said MacDonald.
He said his cousin served three tours in Afghanistan between the time he joined the military in 1999, to went he left in 2013.
A spokesperson with the Department of National Defence confirmed they have a former member by the name of MCpl (retired) Marc Poulin, who joined the Canadian Armed Forces in January 1999 and released in February 2013.
They said he served as a an Infantryman, a Field Engineer and as a Combat Engineer, spending most of his career with 2 Combat Engineer Regiment in Petawawa.
He was first deployed to Kabul in 2005, and then to Kandahar in both 2006 and 2010.
As is the case for many other veterans, family and friends quickly began to notice he had changed.
“He came back in person, but his spirit was different. You could sense it in him. I mean he still loved and cared, but you could tell he was carrying something and it was due to a couple of incidents that occurred on one of those tours,” said MacDonald.
MacDonald confirmed that Marc was going back and forth from Ontario to Scotia with Jennifer as the two worked to renovate the house. From the outside, it looked like the pair were happy and excited to be starting a new chapter in their lives together .
He said he received a call from one of Marc’s three children on March 20 that something bad had happened, and rushed over to be with them. It wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon that they got official word from police and were asked to help identify his body based through a series of photos.
He said although family is still awaiting the official autopsy results from police, they have reason to believe that his death was directly linked to his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“This isn’t an isolated case. This is happening everywhere and it’s not just a Canadian problem, it’s a military problem,” said MacDonald.
“There needs to be something done. Mental illness is such a big issue, and as a society we’re not doing enough about it. We’re just missing so much support for these people.”
Jason Hill said he grew up with Poulin in North Bay, going to school together and living in the apartment directly below him.
“He was the hero, a rock and an icon. But, he was broken,” said Hill, adding the Marc he knew and grew up with was polite, helpful and always wearing a warm smile.
Hill said in recent years, he and Poulin would often end up at the same events at their children’s high school. Although they were not as close in recent years, he said he knew Poulin had spent time serving in Afghanistan, and it was well known by mutual friends that he was living with PTSD.
WATCH: RCMP confirm man, woman found dead inside Springhill, N.S. home following fire
“There was a ceremony where he got awarded for his work in Afghanistan, so he was proud to discuss that, but it almost seemed like that was a shadow to the trauma he was carrying,” said Hill.
“I knew something horrible has happened to him. He told me he had witnessed one of his closest friends dying in front of him.”
He said his friend struggled, often publicly on social media, with the guilt that followed him home from the war. Luckily, he had a strong circle of family and friends rallying behind him, including his then-wife, Shelley.
“Shelley and his children could only carry him so far because obviously, the trauma had broken him. He went from being a hero to being a broken man,” said Hill, adding that his friend would often express frustration over the lack of mental health supports available to him.
RCMP say they will not release any other details regarding the deaths of Poulin or Semenec.