Kelowna woman’s murder mirrors alarming statistical truth

"There may not be anything that criminal justice system can do, but women services can."

Aimee Parkes was killed by her ex fiancee on the day she had his name taken off the rental agreement of the home they once shared and changed the locks to the doors.

These steps, she told a co-worker with optimism that failed to pan out, would allow her to dodge an “atom bomb explosion.”

It’s a story Michelle Novakowski, executive director of the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society,  has heard before.

“The highest risk for women leaving a relationship is in the first few months,” Novakowski said.

A Statistics Canada report from 2008 shows that 26 per cent of all women who have been murdered by a spouse had left the relationship.

Half of these murdered women were killed within two months of leaving the relationship.

Another study from 2011 says women are six times more likely to be killed by an ex-partner than a current partner, while a different report indicates that almost of 60 per cent of all dating violence happens after the relationship has ended.

Women, Novakowski said, may know they’re dealing with a dangerous person, but in these circumstances their focus is on not being unfair or placating the person they’re trying to get away from.

“They will let the guy back in to get his stuff, and that’s when they get murdered,” she said.

“People will say, ‘why doesn’t she leave?’  Women know instinctively that it’s the most dangerous thing to do.”

Parkes, however, didn’t believe that Quigley would be violent, the court heard during his three weeks of trial for her killing.

Her friends didn’t either and said as much during his murder trial.  His defense lawyer Kevin McCulloch noted that Quigley had no history of violence with Parkes or in previous relationships. When Parkes went to the police and the courts to have Quigley removed from their home, she never made a complaint of that nature.

Quigley is, however, mentally ill, and at that time he was off his medications and diving deep into his addiction to crack.

Desperation to feed that addiction had him making fake bank deposits so he could make withdrawals and he pawned everything he could get his hands on.

In the hours after he fatally stabbed Parkes 26 times, he even sold her favourite bracelet so he could stay high.

Novakowski said if a woman had gone to Elizabeth Fry reporting these same set of circumstances, they would have considered him a high risk.

“We would have looked at all of these things, and suggested she stayed with friends or the shelter or put other securities in place,” she said.

“There may not be anything that the criminal justice system can do, but women services can.”

That’s not to say that they can “always prevent a murder” but Novakowski wants women in a similar position to know that there are resources.

“Once people have been to two or three places and have been turned away they may get discouraged,” she said.

“For women who have read this story, there’s us (the E. Fry society) and the women’s shelter —They aren’t alone.”

Novakowski also pointed out that there are stigmas associated with domestic violence that need to be shattered.

“Sometimes women don’t want to connect with our services because they associate domestic violence with poverty,” she said. “But we see clients from all socioeconomic classes. We have doctors, lawyers and young women still in school, covering a wide range of ages and circumstances.”

Like most violent crime in Canada, rates of police-reported domestic violence have fallen over time, according to a 2013 report from Statistics Canada.

This decline, they say, is partly due to increased social equality and financial freedom for women, which makes it easier for them to leave abusive relationships at earlier stages. It is also due to improved public awareness, more treatment programs for violent men, improved training for police officers and Crown attorneys, having the police lay charges rather than the victim, more coordination of community services, and the creation of domestic violence legislation in some areas of Canada.

To contact the Elizabeth Fry Society call 250-763-4613