Day: February 13, 2020

Family and friends say goodbye to girl found dead next to father in Ontario park

Family and friends of a four-year-old girl, who was found dead along with her father at the base of an escarpment in Ontario, have gathered at a funeral home in Toronto to say goodbye. 

Keira Kagan and her father Robin Brown were found dead late Sunday night after police said they did not return from a hike in Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area in Milton. 

Police said the pair arrived at the park between 2:30 and 3 p.m. and told family they planned to return by 5:30 p.m. 

Keira Kagan

An extensive search was launched and police located their bodies just after 11 p.m. 

Kagan’s mother, Jennifer, and stepfather, Philip Viater, said the deaths took place in the middle of a lengthy and nasty custody battle. They were due back in court on February 20. 

Kagan said that her daughter lived with her and her stepfather in York Region. Viater said he dropped off the young girl with her father on Friday night for the two of them to spend the weekend together.

Keira Kagan

Mourners stifled tears this morning in front of a small white casket that holds Keira.

The funeral, held in North York, was open to anyone who wanted to attend. Keira’s family asked those attending to wear something colourful because “Keira would have loved that.”

“Keira was the absolute most special girl you could ever ask for,” Kagan told reporters at her home on Monday.

keira kagan

“Just absolutely resilient and smart and spunky, loved to get dressed up to get into her princess dress and be fancy. Loved to just hang out. She had a shirt that said ‘I’m going to change the world’ and I believe that Kiera truly thought she could.

“Now I’m going to try what I can and do that for her.”

On Monday, police said that the father and daughter’s injuries were consistent with a fall and that it was too early to rule anything out.

robin brown

The Halton police homicide unit is investigating, as is the case in the death of any child under the age of 5.

Anyone who was in Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area between 2 p.m. and 11 p.m. who has relevant information is asked to contact Halton Regional Police.  

With files from The Canadian Press

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By The Wall of Law February 13, 2020 Off

Funeral being held today for girl found dead next to father at base of Ontario escarpment

A funeral will be held today for a four-year-old girl who was found dead along with her father at the base of an escarpment in Ontario earlier this week.

Keira Kagan and her father Robin Brown were found dead late Sunday night after police said they did not return from a hike in Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area in Milton. 

Police said the pair arrived at the park between 2:30 and 3 p.m. and told family they planned to return by 5:30 p.m. 

Keira Kagan

An extensive search was launched and police located their bodies just after 11 p.m. 

Kagan’s mother, Jennifer, and stepfather, Philip Viater, said the deaths took place in the middle of a lengthy and nasty custody battle. They were due back in court on February 20. 

Jennifer said that her daughter lived with her and her stepfather in York Region. Viater said he dropped off the young girl with her father on Friday night for the two of them to spend the weekend together.

Keira Kagan

The funeral, being held in North York at 12:30 p.m. today, is open to anyone who wants to attend. Keira’s family is asking those attending to wear something colourful because “Keira would have loved that.”

“Keira was the absolute most special girl you could ever ask for,” Jennifer told reporters at her home on Monday.

“Just absolutely resilient and smart and spunky, loved to get dressed up to get into her princess dress and be fancy. Loved to just hang out. She had a shirt that said ‘I’m going to change the world’ and I believe that Kiera truly thought she could. She was that sort of girl.”

“And now I’m going to try what I can and do that for her.”

Robin Brown

On Monday, police said that the father and daughter’s injuries were consistent with a fall and that it was too early to rule anything out.

The Halton police homicide unit is investigating, as is the case in the death of any child under the age of 5.

Anyone who was in Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area between 2 p.m. and 11 p.m. who has relevant information is asked to contact Halton Regional Police.  

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By The Wall of Law February 13, 2020 Off

Common-law couples buying homes need extra legal protection: Lawyer

A Toronto family lawyer is highlighting the risks of buying a house with your common-law partner, as more and more couples are purchasing properties without getting hitched.

The latest figures from Statistics Canada show that 39 per cent of Canadian couples lived together for an average of 3.5 years before getting married. But while some couples want to wait to walk down the aisle, others say they don’t want to wait to buy a home.

“It is growing exponentially,” Diana Isaac told CTV News Toronto. 

Isaac is a partner at Shulman Law Firm which practices family law and she says now, more than ever, couples are buying homes and having children without getting married. 

“It is becoming a lot more prevalent and I think more people think before they get married, they want to know if this is the person they really want to be with.”

Under Ontario law, a relationship is considered to be common-law after a couple has been living together for three years or after having a child together and living together with some level of permanence. 

However, Isaac said it’s important for couples to know that in Ontario the Family Law Act does not recognize common-law relationships when it comes to property divisions. 

Isaac says common-law considerations before buying property should include having both partners names being on the title of the property and having a cohabitation agreement. These agreements are also known as domestic contracts. 

Isaac also says these considerations can help when problems arise. 

“In the event of a separation can one person buy the other out? Or is it going to be an automatic sell?” Isaac said.

Lindsay Swanson and Jeffery Johns have been in a common-law relationship for seven years and bought a home in downtown Toronto. Both were married before and were renting, but decided to buy a home together after watching real estate prices climb each year. 

“With prices as high as they are in Toronto if you decide to wait to see if your relationship will keep progressing, but then if two years goes by, it’s a huge amount of time in real estate because prices can go up so dramatically,” Swanson said. 

COUPLE

The couple says it was important for them to have a stable home for their family. 

“We’re both on the title and we’re both joint tenants,” Johns said. 

Johns said that while the couple feels they have a good relationship, if there was a dispute the house wouldn’t be part of it, because it’s clear they both own the property. 

Isaac says if a person is not named on the title of a home they have no property rights and can be evicted in the event of a break-up. Also, if a common-law partner dies, the other common-law partner does not automatically inherit the home they’re living in, unless their name is on title or they have been named in their partner’s will.

Isaac says common-law couples should always seek legal advice before buying property.

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By The Wall of Law February 13, 2020 Off

Lionel Desmond’s wife asked him for a divorce before killings, inquiry told

GUYSBOROUGH, N.S. — The same day Lionel Desmond told a psychotherapist that his wife had recently asked for a divorce, the former soldier fatally shot his spouse, their 10-year-old daughter and his mother before turning the gun on himself, a provincial fatality inquiry heard Wednesday.

The inquiry in Guysborough, N.S., which started last month, has heard the Afghanistan war veteran and his wife Shanna frequently argued after he was discharged from the military in 2015, but this was the first mention of a possible divorce.

“We’ve heard from a few witnesses that there were heated arguments, but always a reconciliation,” lawyer Adam Rodgers, who represents Desmond’s estate and his sister Cassandra, said in a telephone interview.

“But this was the first time there was a mention of divorce …. That does seem quite significant.”

Catherine Chambers, a private psychotherapist based in Antigonish, N.S. who specializes in treating veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder, told the inquiry she was contracted by Veterans Affairs Canada in the fall of 2016 to provide counselling to Desmond. She understood he had been diagnosed with PTSD in 2011.

Several of Desmond’s relatives and friends have long complained the former infantryman did not receive the help he needed as he tried to make to transition to civilian life.

Among other things, the inquiry is investigating whether Desmond and his family had access to mental health and domestic violence services, and whether he should have been able to buy a gun on the same day as the killings.

Chambers said she conducted two assessment sessions with the 33-year-old former sniper — on Dec. 2, 2016 and Dec. 15, 2016.

She described him as polite, well-groomed and soft-spoken — but she also noted he had trouble speaking in a linear manner. Desmond also displayed a “flat affect,” which meant his facial expressions hardly changed when he talked about troubling or emotional issues, she said.

“He seemed to be struggling,” she told the inquiry.

She also said Desmond clearly stated he had not physically abused his wife. Marital conflict is common among those diagnosed with PTSD, Chambers said, but it doesn’t necessarily mean anyone is at imminent risk.

In part, Chambers’ psychotherapy assessment reads: “Mr. Desmond shared that he wants to have a happy and healthy home life and a healthy relationship with his wife. He would also like to sleep better and find ways of dealing with intrusive memories and flashback.”

Chambers testified that Desmond spoke about being the best father and husband that he could be. 

“The impression that I got was that Mr. Desmond loved his wife tremendously and regretted the fact they often argued …. He wanted to rebuild his family.”

Chambers confirmed Desmond did talk about suicide, but she said he did not appear to have any plan or intent to hurt himself or anyone else. She said he engaged in “passive suicide ideation” by saying he wished he had been “blown up” in Afghanistan.

Desmond told her the only reason he wanted to stay alive was to be there for his wife and child.

Until Chambers spoke with Desmond by phone on Jan. 3, 2017, she said he did not mention anything about a possible separation or divorce.

The inquiry has heard that on Jan. 1, 2017, Desmond spent the night at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital after he and Shanna argued on New Year’s Eve. He told staff at the hospital he needed a place to stay to cool off.

The psychiatrist who assessed him, Dr. Faisal Rahman, told the inquiry that Desmond was pleasant and polite, and he was deemed a low risk for suicide or homicide by the time he left the hospital on the morning of Jan. 2, 2017.

Cellphone records obtained by the RCMP show Desmond spoke to his wife later that day. “We don’t know what they discussed,” Rodgers said.

And it was the next day that Desmond told Chambers about the possible divorce.

Just after 6 p.m. that evening, Desmond used a semi-automatic, military-style carbine to kill his family and himself in their rural Nova Scotia home in Upper Big Tracadie.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2020.

— By Michael MacDonald in Halifax

The Canadian Press

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