An Ontario father likely killed his four-year-old daughter and himself in an act of retribution against the girl’s mother after years of court litigation following their separation, a report has found.
The report, published by the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (DVDRC), said the deaths of four-year-old Keira Brown (also known as Keira Kagan) and 35-year-old Robin Brown on Feb. 9, 2020 are “extremely consistent” with past cases involving intimate partner violence and, in particular, murder-suicide involving a father and child.
The pair were found dead at the base of a 100-foot cliff at the Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area in Milton, Ont.
From the beginning, Jennifer Kagan and her husband, Philip Viateur, believed it was a murder-suicide.
The report from the DVDRC details how Robin and Jennifer met online, married the following year and not long after, “numerous conflicts” arose, leading to a short-lived attempt at marriage counselling.
Jennifer also reported a pattern of “domestic violence and coercive control,” the report said.
“After four years of extensive litigation, with the family court trying to promote a cooperative parenting plan with the daughter spending time with both parents, matters appeared to be reaching a crisis point,” the report said.
“In the weeks leading up the deaths, the mother raised serious issues about the father’s mental health and inappropriate conduct.”
The court asked for an updated assessment related to risk and the idea of supervised visits was raised, the report said.
A Children’s Aid Society worker told the mother that they had “serious concerns” about unsupervised visits with Keira and was planning to bring this to the attention of a judge. The worker was also considering a protection application, but needed to talk to her manager first, the report continued.
Police were also called days before the deaths because Robin did not release Keira following his interview with Children’s Aid Society.
But Jennifer still had to release her daughter to Robin for a weekend visit on Feb. 7, 2020. The deaths happened on Feb. 9 — the weekend before the court was set to review the father’s parenting time, the DVDRC said.
Robin took Keira to the conservation area he was familiar with, went off the designated trail and to the cliff.
Robin’s new partner called police after he did not respond to messages and did not show up to a planned dinner with her parents. He and Keira were eventually found dead.
“The deaths may have been retribution on the part of the father against the mother for terminating the relationship, re-marrying a new partner, and having a new family and/or for the on-going family court litigation,” the DVDRC said.
The DVDRC also detailed how Robin was unfaithful, untruthful about a variety of things including having a PhD and various degrees from universities he did not attend.
Police interviews with past partners indicated he was abusive and often seeing several women at the same time, the committee said.
He was also facing other stressors at the time of the deaths, including his engineering company failing.
“At the time of his death, he had a new partner for over a year who spoke well of him and his dedication to his daughter. His new partner’s parents also spoke highly of him. No concerns were expressed about his parenting by anyone in his family,” the report said.
“No one in his family seemed to be aware that he had a court-documented pattern of untruthfulness or that reports of intimate partner violence had been made against him by his previous partners.”
The DVDRC said there were at least 22 risk factors present prior to the deaths, which is consistent with cases “deemed predictable and preventable.”
The DVDRC issued recommendations for enhanced training for children’s aid societies, lawyers, judges and mental health professionals when doing custody assessments.
“This training is necessary to fully understand all forms of family violence including coercive control and litigation abuse versus the label of ‘conflict,’ as well as understanding the implication of family violence for parenting plans that promote child and mother safety,” the document said.
Inquest into Keira’s death announced by coroner
Meanwhile, Ontario’s chief coroner Dr. Dirk Huyer announced Thursday that an inquest will be held to examine the circumstances of Keira’s death.
A jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing other deaths.
The date and location of the inquiry has not yet been released.
The full report from the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee is below.
Domestic Violence Death Review Committee Report by Ryan Rocca on Scribd