Friday, August 6, 2010

DASTARDLY DADS FROM THE ARCHIVES (Calgary, Alberta, Canada - 2008)

Yet another case of a little boy--just 3-years old-- who was murdered during court-ordered visitation by dad RICH SANDERS. And once again, we have a protective mother whose legitimate concerns were ignored by the police and the courts.

Hat tip to L.

Mother of slain boy feels police failed her

A grief-stricken mother who says she repeatedly sought police help for protection against her estranged husband is making plans to bury her three-year-old son in his favourite Halloween whale costume.

By The Calgary Herald October 1, 2008

Meara McIntosh delivered little Colton Dale into the hands of his father -- her estranged husband Rich Saunders, 34 -- Friday afternoon for his court-ordered weekend visit.

Less than 48 hours later, father and son were dead by Saunders' hand.

The murder-suicide in Drumheller was discovered Sunday morning. Carbon monoxide fumes from a backyard barbecue brought indoors killed them both. They were found in the same room.
McIntosh, who made it known she wanted to leave the province with her son for a fresh start in Ottawa, said she repeatedly went to police and the courts over worries about Saunders' threatening and irrational behaviour.

"Are you going to wait until one of us is dead before you open an investigation?" McIntosh said she asked RCMP.

The divorcing couple, embroiled in a bitter custody dispute for the past 18 months, were reduced to handing their son back and forth to each other at the local RCMP detachment by court order.

But the 27-year-old mother said she expected her grave concerns for safety would be taken to heart.

"The police and the court system worked in bureaucratic harmony to destroy Colton," said McIntosh's father John.

Like many stories of divorce and estrangement, McIntosh's is fraught with difficulties and a long history of court appearances, delays, affidavits and police visits.

Two and a half months ago, McIntosh said she went back to police with taped conversations she said captured her ex admitting to harassing her. She'd been carrying a mini tape recorder in her purse.

Police grew weary of her complaints, according to McIntosh. She needed evidence or an admission of guilt, they told her.

"They said I could be arrested for making false complaints."

Drumheller RCMP confirmed they had previous contact with the couple during their tumultuous separation.

Now, the grieving mother is left to plan her baby boy's funeral. Colton will be buried in his favourite clothes -- a whale costume he'd recently picked out for Halloween.

"He loved it. He's been wearing it for weeks," said McIntosh, clutching her son's favourite egg-sized stuffed purple monkey in her hands for comfort during an interview.

"I grabbed this on the way out the door Sunday so he'd have something to play with on the way home," she said. "It's been in my pocket ever since."

Mother and son spent Friday morning enjoying each other's company. Colton, a blond- haired boy with dimples, wanted to play with his new board game, called Cariboo. They also cuddled with his beloved stuffed monkeys. He had over a dozen and called them all by name.

"It was a really wonderful day for us. He was so affectionate and snuggly. I didn't want to say goodbye, but I faced jail if I didn't."

Before 3 p.m., McIntosh drove to the RCMP detachment to drop her son off for his weekend visit with his father. Saunders was waiting for them in the parking lot. "I said, 'Look, there's your daddy.' He was so excited, he was just bouncing from foot to foot."

McIntosh didn't know it then, but it was the last time she'd see her son alive. "He said, 'Bye Mom,' over his shoulder and they were gone."

A weary McIntosh is now surrounded by family and friends as she gathers her belongings to leave Drumheller forever. She plans to bury her son in Victoria, B.C.

Through her clouded grief, McIntosh is able to clearly focus on changes she said need to be made for custody disputes.

"You should be able to demand drug and alcohol testing at any time. If they're concerned about someone's mental state, there should be psychiatric evaluations, not just an interview," she said. "If women have fears, they should be able to change visitation. The police and the judge took that away from me."

If plans had gone her way, McIntosh would have been in Ottawa earlier this week. A judge issued a court order forbidding her to take her son.

The pair dated for a few years before marrying in 2004. Two years later, McIntosh left Saunders, unable to cope with his drinking and what she claims was his intimidating behaviour.

By her own admission, the divorce and custody battle was difficult. McIntosh frequently challenged what she viewed as unfair. That did not sit well with her estranged husband, social services representatives or the police, she said.

"People just thought I was the angry ex-wife," she said. "Some days I thought, 'I'm lucky to be alive.' This is what he wanted. I have to wake up every day without my snuggle-buggle."

After she buries her son, McIntosh says she is seeking solace out of the country to begin dealing with her broken heart.

"I'm packing a backpack and going to Mexico. I'm going to sit on a beach with a pottery wheel," said McIntosh, who is an artist. "I will celebrate my son's life. I will go on and be happy and remarry and have children. (Saunders) will not take away my right to have family and be happy away from me."

Friends and family on opposite sides heard very different accounts of perceived wrongs. The estranged couple bickered about little things, but their frustrations grew. McIntosh felt her ex was stalking her and vandalizing her car and a kiosk she worked at.

She said she felt unsafe after encountering an intruder on her property wearing a balaclava. She was sure it was Saunders, but had no proof.

"I wasn't quiet about it," said McIntosh. "I'd been in hiding for the last two months," she said, describing the lengths she went to in order to evade Saunders.

She said she was staying with friends and basically living out of her car. "Friends gave us food and toys and clothes."

In a recent e-mail, she wrote to her ex-husband that she was taking tape recordings to court.

On Sept. 25, McIntosh said she was going to fight another court motion so she could have conditions lifted to allow her to take her son out east.

Friends have described Saunders, who recently took a job at a car dealership, as a "nice guy."

In the weeks leading up the murder-suicide, Saunders confided in a friend that he was angry about McIntosh's plan to move away and take the couple's son with her. "He said, 'If you do, it'll be over my dead body,' " the friend said.