Why a triple murder-suicide in rural Ontario offers a case study on how rape myths can compromise a police probe

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A provincial review finds that a triple murder-suicide case study in rural Ontario, in which rape myths and tunnel vision can compromise a police investigation, should be used to teach police that How to handle complaints of sexual and domestic violence.

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On February 23, 2018, Ulla Theoret told police that she was sexually assaulted by her neighbor, Mark Jones, six months after Mr Jones shot and killed her at his home in Burke Falls, Ont. He also killed his 28-year-old son Paul and his 88-year-old mother Raiza Turunen before pointing a gun at himself.

Following an investigation by the Granthshala and Mail in 2019 that uncovered warning signs in a tight-knit small town by police and others, Ontario’s Domestic Violence Death Review Committee decided the matter should be investigated, even if It was not a typical example of domestic itself. Violence because Mr Jones and Ms Theoret were not officially a couple.

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The review committee analyzes all cases of intimate partner murders in the province and creates Recommendations for preventing future deaths. It looks for a list of 41 “indicators” (such as sexual jealousy, prior intimidation with a weapon, access to firearms, or victim vulnerability) that, that is, demonstrate the potential for lethality. In about three-quarters of the cases the committee reviews, it identifies seven or more risk factors. In this case there were 13.

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The committee’s report – which is not public but was shared by Ms Theoret’s family – includes recommendations from the Solicitor General’s Ministry and the Ontario Police College. It calls for a review and redesign of its policies and training relating to intimate-partner and sexual-violence cases to better prepare the police to deal with victims who press charges. are reluctant, or whose relationships with abusers are not stereotypical. Romantic. The report states that the tragedy should be adopted as a case study by the Police College, “in order to characterize the complexity of the investigation of domestic/intimate partner violence, dating violence and sexual assaults as multiple forms of gender-based violence.” for.”

Like the recommendations made by the adjudicators of the inquiry, the recommendations of the committee are non-binding. In an email to The Granthshala, the solicitor general’s ministry said the Police College is constantly updating its course materials, and will consider the inclusion of Ms Theoret’s case in the future. But the ministry said it does not need to implement the committee’s recommendations for updated policies and training, as existing practices are effective in preparing police to deal with domestic and sexual violence.

Ms Theoret, a former nurse and mother of three grown sons, moved to Burke Falls in 2014 to care for her aging parents.

The DVDRC report said Ms Theoret, who was separated from her husband following the move, had an active social life and many friends, but struggled with severe anxiety and depression, for which she received counseling. Was getting it done. The report said one of the things that bothered her was “unwanted attention from a man (the perpetrator) that his mother wanted him to date.”

In the months following her death, Ms. Theorett became more and more fearful of Mr. Jones Because of his aggressive efforts of the court. And in September 2017, “after encouragement from several friends and her therapist,” she reported to Ontario Provincial Police that he had sexually assaulted her. “At that time, she also reported several incidents of stalking and threatening behavior displayed by the offender towards her,” the report said.

He had told friends about his upsetting encounters with Mr. Jones, and some had even seen his behavior firsthand. For example, when Ms. Theoret started seeing another person, she would return home from dates so that Mr. Jones could wait for them, the report says. Mr. Jones would also walk past the other person’s house and shout at them, threatening them both.

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Mr Jones often leaves unwanted love letters and small gifts in Miss Theoret’s mailbox. But perhaps most chilling was his use of Ms. Theoret’s own guns As an intimidation device: “The offender would reach up to the family’s firearms cabinet to check his firearms, and twice he handled an unloaded firearm, pointed at it. [Ms. Theoret] And pulled the trigger,” notes the report.

But when Ms. Theoret spoke to police about the sexual assault, the DVDRC report says, she did not want to make allegations. And he kept the attack a secret from his sons, because he was concerned about what they might say or do.

In its recommendations to the Solicitor General’s Ministry, the DVDRC “emphasizes the need for clear policy and training for police on the management of sexual assault victims who are reluctant to proceed with criminal charges, but give them additional time to recognize the risks.” and counseling may be required. Face the potential benefits of engaging in the criminal and criminal justice process.”

The report said police policies and training should also include a “broad definition” of domestic violence, including “violence in dating relationships, online relationships and intimate relationships that can be of brief duration and more one-sided.” “

As the report notes, police wrote in Ms. Theoret’s file that she “did not resist or say no. She does not seek charges at this time.”

The DVDRC states that this summary reflects “adherence to rape myths” and possible “tunnel sightings” by police. If sexual harassment and stalking behavior had been considered in the context of intimate-partner violence in Ms. Theorett’s report, the report said, her case would have been automatically investigated under Ontario policy, requiring police is required to be charged in cases of potential domestic violence, whether the victim agrees or not.

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OPP spokesman Bill Dixon said in an email Monday that the force “cannot speak for the Solicitor General or the Ministry of Ontario Police College,” and declined to comment on the report or the matter.

“OPP continually strives for investigative excellence, including ongoing review of policies and procedures surrounding both intimate-partner violence and sexual assault. This includes training all officers as well as new recruits on the dynamics of such cases. is,” Mr. Dixon said in an email.

According to the DVDRC report, Ms. Theorett’s last known conversation with Mr. Jones prior to the day of the murder was in January 2018 – a month before his assassination.

“The perpetrator went to the victim’s house and told her that he knew they were together,” the report said. “He was told to leave and follow.”

In the early hours of February 23, 2018, Mr. Jones returned to the family’s rural home and entered through an open door. The report said he shot and killed all three victims with a .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun and 12-gauge shotgun. Then he sat down on a chair at the kitchen table and shot himself in handcuffs. Paul’s girlfriend discovered the four bodies when he reached home after work that night.

The report said “very detailed notes” written by Mr Jones showed he had been planning the murders for about three days. “There was evidence that the perpetrator’s motivation was his anger and jealousy at the victim’s rejection of the relationship, his rejection and the new relationship.”

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Thomas Theoret, one of Ms Theoret’s surviving sons, said he was pleased with the DVDRC report, and the possibility that his family’s case would be used to educate the police.

If the police had considered Ms. Theorett and Mr. Jones to be intimate partners, he said, “then their report would automatically result in a domestic-violence case. In that case, Jones could have been prosecuted and perhaps this would have led to them.” It would have helped prevent the havoc caused.

Mr Thioret said he believes the report helps highlight the risks and warning signs that friends, neighbors and family should be aware of.

“I can’t help but feel like everyone is failing my mom in some way, including me,” he said.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Granthshala editors, giving you a brief summary of the day’s most important headlines. .

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