Probation officers could have been in contact with the victims of Basil Borutski more frequently to make them aware of the level of risk that he posed to them and to ensure the perpetrator was complying with the terms of his probation, a coroner’s inquest heard Wednesday.
Borutski, who had a known history of violence against women, killed Carol Culleton, Nathalie Warmerdam and Anastasia Kuzyk on their properties in the Renfrew County area on Sept. 22, 2015.
The inquest is examining the women’s deaths and considering ways to protect victims of intimate partner violence, particularly in rural communities.
Borutski was initially sentenced to two years of probation following a prison sentence in December 2012 for assaulting a police officer, two counts of uttering threats toward Warmerdam, mischief and breach of a peace bond.
James Pearson, a quality assurance manager with the Ministry of the Solicitor General, told the inquest that a probation officer first conducted an intake session with Borutski in January 2013, following his release from prison.
At that time, Pearson said Borutski was not deemed to be an intensive supervision offender, or someone who may pose an imminent risk to another individual.
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But Borutski’s level of risk escalated over time, as documented by multiple risk assessments, Pearson said, with the perpetrator determined in October 2013 to be in “one of the higher risk categories” for domestic violence recidivism, which is tendency of an individual to reoffend.
He was convicted of more offences in 2014, including overcoming resistance by attempting to choke, suffocate or strangle another person and assault — Kuzyk in particular — and upon his release from prison this time, Pearson said another risk assessment found Borutski in “one of the highest risk categories” to reoffend.
In the case of high-risk designations, Pearson said probation officers should maintain “more direct and purposeful” contact with victims. He said there could have been more contact made with Warmerdam and Kuzyk in regards to Borutski’s file.
“What you would like to see is a clear decision made with respect to victim contact frequency. It should be based on the risk level posed and the amount of contact we need with individuals to monitor compliance with conditions,” Pearson told the inquest.
“In this case, I think victim contact could have been made more frequently.”
The inquest previously heard that Warmerdam had consistently followed up with probation officers about Borutski’s whereabouts after his release from prison in late December 2014.
Pearson said a probation officer spoke with Warmerdam shortly after Borutski’s release about his probation order, but there were was “less regular” contact made with Warmerdam after that because the probation officer felt that she had been “well connected” with a victim witness assistance program, as was the case with Kuzyk.
Under the terms of his probation, Borutski was required to attend a Partner Assault Response program, but Pearson said the perpetrator told his probation officer that he did not have the means of transportation to attend sessions in person and felt that he would not benefit from the sessions because of his anxiety.
“So those are some of the excuses that were presented from the offender during the, call it six-month window or so, in early 2015,” he said, adding that the offender’s history of not attending PAR sessions would have been a red flag.
Among a list of recommendations made in an internal Ministry of the Solicitor General review after the Sept. 22, 2015 triple homicide was one to work with the Ministry of the Attorney General to ensure PAR programs are more readily available in both rural and remote parts of Ontario.
Pearson said the PAR program has since expanded within Renfrew County from one location to three locations, “which may render it far more accessible to people across this very expansive area.”
Overall, Pearson said the Ministry of the Solicitor General is “open” to hearing the recommendations that come from the inquest specifically so that it can address other areas that require improvements.
“I do believe that our processes, you know, as they relate to domestic violence offenders, and as they relate to the establishment and maintenance of contact with victims, is something that we can look at,” he said.
“And I think we are looking forward to hearing the recommendations that come out of this process with respect to that.”