Once again, we have a case where a mother's pleas were ignored--and the courts gave the violent father child custody/visitation anyway. Dad RICH SAUNDERS then murdered his 3-year-old during visitation. As the mother points out, this was a PREVENTABLE murder. We have got to stop labeling mothers who bring up concerns as "vindictive," and stop these killings.
Mother braces for inquiry into toddler's killing'I don't want to be here, but I have to see it through'
By Jason Van Rassel, Calgary Herald June 1, 2011
Meara McIntosh has travelled thousands of miles back to Alberta for an inquiry probing the murder of her young son at the hands of her ex-husband.
But the emotional journey toward next week's fatality inquiry in Drumheller has been far more arduous, McIntosh said.
"I don't want to be here, but I have to see it through," said McIntosh, who moved to Mexico shortly after her son Colton's death in 2008.
McIntosh's ex-husband, Rich Saunders, killed three-year-old Colton and himself during a court-ordered weekend visit in Drumheller.
A fatality inquiry into Colton's death is scheduled to begin in Drumheller next week, and McIntosh is hopeful it will provoke change and raise the profile of domestic abuse.
"Laws are changed when there is public interest," McIntosh said.
One of McIntosh's goals is that Alberta will change its legislation to mandate fatality inquiries into all domestic homicides -something that is now done in Ontario.
In McIntosh's case, she said she wasn't aware of the fatality inquiry process until a friend suggested it to her.
It then took a petition to get Alberta's Fatality Review Board to recommend an inquiry be held, McIntosh added.
"I didn't know I had any recourse," she said.
McIntosh now not only knows the process exists, she has immersed herself in it to the extent she will be representing herself at the inquiry and conducting her own cross-examination of witnesses.
The murder-suicide that resulted in Colton's death ended what had been an acrimonious 18-month custody battle between McIntosh and Saunders.
McIntosh said she repeatedly warned the local RCMP about Saunders' intimidating behaviour and potential for violence, to no avail.
The inquiry will examine how authorities -including the RCMP and child welfare officials -handled the case, with the aim of making recommendations designed to avoid a similar tragedy.
"I felt this was a very preventable death. I wanted to work within the law to prevent this from happening again," McIntosh said.
Following the deaths, the RCMP conducted its own review of the case. A spokesman said the findings won't be made public until the fatality inquiry is complete.
Although McIntosh believed Saunders was stalking her and vandalizing her property, she said the RCMP dismissed her genuine concerns as spurious allegations coming from a vindictive ex-wife.
"The two things are often confused -with disastrous consequences," she said.
At one point, McIntosh said she caught a masked intruder she believed to be Saunders on her property, but had no proof.
McIntosh obtained a restraining order against Saunders, but it had expired at the time of the killing.
McIntosh last saw Colton when she handed him over to Saunders at the local RCMP detachment under the terms of a court order.
Saunders, 35, killed himself and Colton with carbon monoxide fumes from an outdoor grill he brought inside.
After the crime, McIntosh, who is an artist, moved to Mexico and opened a studio there. McIntosh, 29, has spent the time since 2008 travelling and establishing her business.