COQUITLAM (NEWS1130) – A report into the deaths of three children in Merritt calls the incident “a disgrace to the justice system of British Columbia.”
It says our system did not protect the Shoenborn children from being murdered by their father, who had a long history of violent and psychotic episodes. BC’s Children’s Representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has found the people that were supposed to keep the children safe from Allan Schoenborn were incompetent.
“During their short lives they lived with upheaval and anxiety caused by domestic violence and their father’s untreated, serious mental illness and addictions,” she says.
She calls the loss of the children heart-breaking “and even more so because these were preventable deaths.”
Schoenborn was diagnosed with a delusional disorder in 1999. That was his last contact with mental health care professionals.
“He left the hospital without any meaningful follow-up, tracking or connection to the mental health system in British Columbia for the next period… right up until when he killed his children,” says Turpel-Lafond.
She feels Schoenborn’s mental illness went untreated and was never adequately considered a risk-factor in planning for the safety of the children with their mother.
Severe violence in 2007 lead to Schoenborn not being allowed near his family, but he did not stay away.
“Police did not act on it,” says Turpel-Lafond. “That incident began an escalating year-long involvement with the criminal justice system marked by repeated domestic violence, miscommunication, ineffective communication and a passive response.”
Schoenborn murdered his children — 10-year-old Kaitlynne, eight-year-old Max and five-year-old Cordon — in April, 2008. Their bodies were found in their home. Schoenborn was later found not criminally responsible and is now in a psychiatric institution in Coquitlam.
In the four years since their deaths, Turpel-Lafond says nothing has been done to prevent this from happening again. She has made several recommendations to prevent future deaths like these. She also wants to see a domestic violence court brought into BC.
Some of the recommendations include:
- That the Ministry of Health, in partnership with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, take immediate steps to ensure that all staff and professionals connected to their systems understand the risk factors relating to children of parents with a serious untreated mental illness.
- That the Ministry of Children and Family Development reconsider its previous unwillingness to implement a key recommendation in the Honouring Christian Lee (2009) report. That recommendation asked the ministry to “propose required changes to legislation, and develop policies, standards and training to provide social workers with clear direction in assessing the safety of children who are exposed to domestic violence.”
Schoenborn’s former common-law wife issues statement
Allan Schoenborn’s former common-law wife has issued a statement, endorsing Turpel-Lafond’s report.
Darcie Clarke says she’s been in recent contact with the province’s attorney general and the premier, and is confident recommendations will be adopted so that “no family or child will ever have to experience what my family went through.”
She points out she’s a month away from what she calls another agonizing hearing at the BC Review Board, which will determine Schoenborn’s fate.
She says she hopes the board realizes it is dealing with a sick, broken, manipulative, vengeful man who will commit acts of violence again.