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Crime

Fatality inquiry into murder-suicide of father and autistic son reveals years-long struggle

EDMONTON – A fatality inquiry report into the murder-suicide of an 11-year-old autistic boy and his father reveals the family’s struggle to navigate the support system. The report also recommends the implementation of a plan to address gaps in service.

In the early hours of Sept. 27, 2009, 11-year-old Jeremy Bostick and his father, 39-year-old Jeffrey Bostick, were found dead in the basement of their north Edmonton home.

After Jeffrey’s wife called 911, police forced their way into the locked basement room, and found Bostick and his son lying lifeless on the bunk bed and floor. The room was sealed off, vents taped over, door tied shut, and there was an open canister of carbon monoxide on the floor. The report explained there were no signs of trauma to the bodies.

Police ruled the deaths a murder-suicide, and the Medical Examiner said carbon monoxide intoxication was the cause of the deaths.

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A fatality inquiry was ordered to look into the circumstances and determine whether the Bostick family received sufficient support from Family Services for Children with Disabilities (FSCD) to care for Jeremy and help the family cope with his autism.

The inquiry was also to determine whether anything could have been done – in terms of family supports – to prevent the deaths from happening.

The Public Inquiry was held in Edmonton from Nov. 14 to 18, 2011.

(Read the full fatality inquiry report below.)

In her report, released Nov. 22, Judge Shelagh R. Creagh explained Jeremy’s official diagnosis was “Autistic disorder, severe with significant behaviour problems.”

Creagh outlined that, after the family moved to Alberta from Ontario in 2006, they received referrals to a number of support programs, including Alberta Aids to Daily Living (to access funds for diapers), Edmonton Autism Society (for general support), Family Linkages Foundation of Alberta, Robin Hood Association (for day camps and summer respite care), King Edward School Out of School Care program, and The Transitions program (for behavioural consultation assistance to deal with Jeremy’s physically aggressive behaviours).

The assessment of the FSCD case worker, included in the report, concluded the Bostick family required “exceptionally high services.”

The case worker reported that Jeremy’s father and step-mother, Dena Caputo, said their son would have a “blow up” three or more times a day. His tantrums were severe, and included banging his head, head-butting, hitting and pinching himself and others, as well as screaming and crying.

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The report outlines how the family tried several support programs, and worked with various therapists, but had disagreements with some providers about the care given to Jeremy.

The report detailed that, in 2007, Jeremy’s behaviour was deteriorating. The family had received funding for a family day home to provide after school care for Jeremy, but the report shows “when he started striking and biting infants who were also in the day home, the operator of the home refused to take him.”

In February of 2008, Dr. Shirley Dobrofsky, a child psychiatrist who specializes in autism and worked with Jeremy, concluded that Jeremy’s behaviours were escalating. She noted that Jeremy “could not function in class and would have to stay with one teacher all day, fighting, kicking, and biting, worse than before the meds.”

A number of different medications were tried, in the hopes of managing some of Jeremy’s symptoms.

He was hospitalized on a couple of occasions because Bostick and Caputo simply could not manage him, the report revealed. At the Inquiry, Caputo said the tantrums continued every day, morning until night, for “a week solid.”

“The patient is a nine-year-old boy with a long-standing diagnosis of severe non-verbal autism,” wrote Dr. Oleksandr Hodlevskyy, one of the psychiatrists who treated Jeremy, in his April 2008 report. “There is a several month history of escalating aggressive behaviour, to the point that the patient is unmanageable at home, as well as at school.”

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“While both the patient’s father and step-mother appear to very supportive and resourceful in exploring various resources for the patient, their increasing frustration and desperation is quite obvious… It appears that numerous medication adjustments have been made on an outpatient basis but there has been little benefit noted.”

Bostick and Caputo discussed other treatment options. Caputo wanted to try an out-of-home placement for Jeremy, but Bostick wanted his son to stay at home.

Eventually, the inquiry heard, it was decided that Jeremy – for the “short term” – would be placed in a Protegra group home, and FSCD would provide funding.

In June of 2009, the family was told a placement in a Catholic Social Services (CSS) home was available.

Initially, his father objected, insisting Jeremy was receiving adequate care at the Protegra home and didn’t want him moved. However, three months later, Bostick seemed to have had a change of heart, and emailed FSCD saying he was willing to consider the transfer to the CSS home.

Five days later, the father and son were found dead.

In her findings, Judge Creagh concluded there is no way to know why Bostick did what he did. She said there may have been a number of pressures that contributed to the decision, including Jeremy’s condition and future, financial pressures, and family issues.

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Creagh wrote, “I cannot say that lack of resources created stressors that led to the murder suicide. The decision about Jeremy’s impending move from Protegra was a likely stressor, but that is more about Mr. Bostick having to choose what to do rather than lack of resources offered.”

However, Creagh acknowledged the family was frustrated with the resources. During the Inquiry, Caputo said it was like pulling teeth to get services. She said FSCD workers gave wonderful support but the problem was the connection between referrals and what was available.

In terms of prevention, Creagh came to the conclusion: “There are no recommendations that I can make with respect to the prevention of future deaths such as Jeremy’s.”

“The only recommendation I make is to encourage the Joint Action Committee on Children to implement the plan developed by the task force for the crisis team. This plan addresses the gaps identified in the services. Although cases such as Jeremy’s are rare, this service is needed in the community and must be provided to families in distress.”

“I would be remiss if I did not mention that the evidence leaves no doubt that throughout his life Jeremy was cared for and supported by remarkable caregivers: his mother, his step-mother and his teacher, Ms.

Chung, spring immediately to mind. Their strength and patience is impressive,” wrote Creagh. “In addition Mr. Bostick and Ms. Caputo insisted on obtaining the services they saw as being in Jeremy’s best interests.”

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Fatality Inquiry Report: Jeffrey & Jeremy Bostick