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(FEATURE) The Fourth Estate: Hopefully not a trend

Police investigators on the scene of a double shooting near an apartment complex on Oxford Street in Oshawa in January. Courtney Browne, 22, of Whitby, died from injuries suffered during the shooting.

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

While celebrations were ongoing around Christmas and New Year’s, there were also grim reminders of the ugly side of 2018.

In the last few days of the year, the public was blitzed with stories about the fact the City of Toronto had seen 96 homicides last year, breaking the previous record of 89 in 1991.

It represents an alarming increase of violence across Ontario’s capital, which saw 30 fewer homicides in 2017.

On the heels of the record-breaking year in terms of violent crime, the city has announced its homicide unit is being revamped.

But closer to home here in Durham Region, there are concerns as well.

There were 10 confirmed homicides in the region in 2018. Ironically, Durham saw its highest number of murders in 1991 as well, when there were 12.

As noted by Police Chief Paul Martin, historically Durham averages between four to six homicides a year, but over the last two years, there have been a total of 19.

While addressing regional council last January, Martin admitted these numbers are concerning, but he is hopeful they don’t represent the beginning of a larger trend.

Of the 10 homicides, six took place in Oshawa, the largest centre in Durham.

In this edition of the Fourth Estate, The Oshawa Express looks beyond the numbers and places a deeper lens into those who were unfortunately taken from their friends and family in 2018.

 

Police were searching the area where Nevethian Baskaran, 17, was stabbed to death in North Oshawa in January.

Neveithan Baskaran, 17

A common misconception is that violent crime only occurs in Oshawa’s downtown and southerly areas.

This was proven wrong when Baskaran, a 17-year-old Maxwell Heights Secondary School student died after behind stabbed in the area of Taunton and Harmony Roads on Jan. 11.

According to a statement from Durham District School Board, an altercation between the victim and another teen escalated and led to the stabbing.

A 16-year-old male, who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, has been charged with Baskaran’s murder.

 

Courtney Browne, 22

Whitby resident Browne was sitting in a car with another man from Ajax in the parking lot of an apartment building at 885 Oxford Street South when suspects in another vehicle opened fire on them.

The car was left with multiple bullet holes, and the windows were smashed in.

Both men were later taken to hospital, where Browne succumbed to his injuries.

Resident Roger Hues said he had been standing in the lobby with his son minutes before gunfire started and was shocked when he heard a stray bullet had entered the building.

“We were standing right in the path of that,” he told The Express.

According to Hues, who has lived in the building since 2003, several residents reported a silver vehicle sitting near the parking lot for some time before driving up and opening fire on the vehicle in the parking lot with the two men inside.

Police do not believe the shooting was a random incident. Almost a year later, no arrests have been made in connection to Browne’s murder.

 

Krassimira Pejcinvoski, 39, Roy Pejcinvoski, 15 and Venallia Pejcinvoski, 13

This shocking triple homicide of an Ajax family rocked the community to its core.

Police were called on March 14 by a friend of Krassimira who said she had failed to show up for work.

The friend claimed she was turned away at her friend’s home by a man, later identified as Cory Fenn, 29.

Once police arrived at the Pejcinovski home, they found Krassimira and Roy deceased inside.

Venallia was later taken to hospital but succumbed to her injuries.

Fenn was seen leaving the scene and later arrested in Oshawa without incident.

Pejcinovski’s other child was at a driver’s education class at the time of the murders.

Fenn, who was in a relationship with Krassimira, was later charged with three counts of second-degree murder.

Memorials to the three victims came quickly and fiercely.

 

Brian Windsor, 38

Windsor’s death showed homicides occur not in the region’s cities but rural areas as well.

On April 20, police responded to a report of shots fired at a house in Cannington, a small hamlet located about one hour north of Oshawa.

Windsor was found dead of a gunshot wound.

Another man was arrested but later released.

Windsor’s death was ruled as a ‘nonculpable homicide’ that was not criminal in nature.

The man who shot Windsor was “defending himself from a violent situation,” according to police.

 

Unnamed victim, 88

The region’s next homicide was an unusual one as it took place at a retirement home.

According to police, an 88-year-old male and 76-year-old male, both of whom suffered from dementia, got into an altercation at the Oshawa home.

The elder resident fell and broke his pelvis, and passed away two days later.

The names were not released, and although the man’s death was ruled a homicide, no charges were laid.

 

Kyle David Baker, 24

In the early hours of June 6, police were called to a home on Bloor Street East after reports of a man with life-threatening injuries due to a gunshot.

Baker, 24, later died and was identified as Durham’s eighth homicide victim of 2018.

There are several rental units in the area where Baker was found.

In October, Sahilan Surendran, 28, of no fixed address, was charged with second-degree murder.

 

Shanan Dionne, the mother of Rori Hache, speaks to reporters outside of an Oshawa courthouse.

Rori Hache, 18 and Kandis Fitzpatrick, 18

Perhaps the region’s most publicized homicides were those that took the longest for charges to be laid.

In late December 2017, police attended an apartment on McMillan Drive in Oshawa.

The apartment’s resident, Adam Strong, was charged in connection with the death of Oshawa teen Rori Hache.

Hache’s partial remains had been discovered in Lake Ontario near the city’s Harbour last September.

While her death was ruled a homicide, Strong was not initially charged with her murder. Instead, he was charged with indecent inference with a dead body.

However, the police investigation was continuing even as Strong began to make court appearances.

In July, DRPS announced officers had discovered a second set of DNA at the apartment.

Detectives strongly suggested this DNA belonged to Kandis Fitzpatrick, an Oshawa woman who was 18 when last seen in 2008.

In November, police charged Strong with the murders of Hache and Fitzpatrick.

His preliminary hearing is set for February.

 

Ten different people with ten different stories, all who were unfortunately taken from their friends and family.

While the alleged killers of some of these victims have been charged, their loved ones must still deal with the constant reminder of seeing their names in articles such as this.

While Durham’s homicide rate is not at the alarming level of Toronto, the increase over the past few years is no doubt a cause of concern for Durham residents and police.

 

BEHIND THE WRITING

A hard story to tell

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

In the past, I’ve gotten to write about some contentious issues for the Fourth Estate, but this edition was perhaps the most depressing.

There were 10 homicides in Durham Region this year. Each one representing someone who was perhaps a mother, father, brother, sister, friend and so on.

It’s heartbreaking to see those lives in a headline as a number.

Homicide levels are a complex subject as can be seen by observing the situation in Toronto.

In 2015, there were 59 murders in the province’s capital.

That figure jumped to 75 in 2016 and fell back down to 66 in 2017.

This year, there were 96, the most ever, breaking the previous record of 89 in 1991.

It’s disheartening to contemplate this at a time when the hope of the new year is so prevalent, and the natural reaction to is to look forward instead of behind us.

It’s a bit hard to be optimistic when writing about such horrible crimes but in this line of work sometimes it’s not always rainbows and sunshine.

Perhaps the most troubling story is that of Rori Hache and Kandis Fitzpatrick.

Two young girls, with their lives ahead of them, who were taken from their families much too early.

The girls went missing in Oshawa almost a decade apart from each other, and most likely had never met. They probably have no connection other than the same man has been charged with their murders.

And while Adam Strong hasn’t been convicted of any crime, that doesn’t take away from the pain the families felt every day they didn’t hear from their loved ones.

In some way, the fact an arrest has been made may produce some closure for them, but it is not likely enough to completely rid them of the pain they faced.

I am hopeful that 2019 will bring a year with less of these stories, but there is no way to truly foretell that.

In the end, all I can do is send my prayers and thoughts to anyone who lost someone this year at the hands of someone else.