Friday marked the third anniversary of Allan Dwayne Schoenborn's conviction for murdering his three children. He stabbed the oldest, 10-year-old Kaitlynne; he smothered her two younger brothers: Max, eight, and Cordon, five.
Justice Robert Powers of B.C. Supreme Court found Schoenborn guilty of premeditated murder, but declared him not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder."
Basically, Justice Powers concluded that Schoenborn must have been delusional,
because "any reasonable or rational person would know that (what he did) was wrong." If he killed his children, therefore, Schoenborn could not be "reasonable or rational."
Schoenborn claimed that he wanted to protect his children from sexual abuse. But no evidence was offered that they had ever suffered from sexual abuse, or were likely to.
A more likely scenario - he was distraught that his partner, Darcie Clarke, had decided to leave him after 15 years together.
As I read reports from the trial, I was surprised she would stay with him that long. Schoenborn had a long history of abusive relationships. During the week preceding the murders, he was arrested three times for violence and threats of violence.
But as I'm starting to realize, abuse is a relative term.
Our daughter is mother to a rapidly maturing eight-year-old girl. She's trying to teach her daughter that no one needs to tolerate abusive behaviour.
But she lives with the tragically immature six-year-old boy I wrote about two weeks ago. Who hits his mother. Screams at her. Throws things.
Somehow, what she tries to teach her daughter doesn't match the example she sets.
Is this a case of "Do as I say, not as I do?"
Why does she do it? "Because he's a child," she says. "I feel responsible for him. I love him. I believe there is hope that he will straighten out."
Darcie Clarke might well have used the same words to justify staying with an abusive husband, before she finally decided enough was enough.
So might thousands of others, living in less-than-perfect relationships. Because abuse is not just physical. Or sexual. Emotional abuse is less evident.
The chronically depressed spouse who salvages her own self-esteem by cutting her husband down to size.
The control-freak who micro-manages every aspect of a couple's financial affairs, who won't let his wife have her own credit card.
The boss who flexes her power by berating her employees in public.
The husband who refuses to give up his hobbies, his sports, his career, while his partner struggles with disabled children, unreliable appliances, and aching loneliness.
The alcoholic who's skilled, competent, holds a responsible job and earns a good
income, but drinks herself into a stupor every evening.
Feel free to reverse gender references in the examples above.
Basically, I suspect, all of us tolerate some elements of abuse. As Pogo said, "We has seen the enemy, and he is us."
So why do we hang in, year after year, letting ourselves be victims? Janie, the dear friend of a dear friend, hung in too long. Her husband beat her to death.
There are no simple answers.
Relationships that I might consider merely awkward, someone else might consider intolerable. And vice versa.
I remember an article about computer glitches. The author suggested that programs had two kinds of problems. He called them fatal flaws and workarounds.
Fatal flaws meant that the program simply could not do what it should do. Like a spreadsheet that won't process formulas
accurately, or a grammar checker that can't - oh, wait, Microsoft already has one of those.
Workarounds were lesser flaws - irritating inconveniences that one could learn to work around. An awkwardly placed delete key, for instance. A command requiring three keystrokes instead of two.
One person's workaround might be another's fatal flaw. My friend, Ralph Milton, returned a new laptop because the keyboard didn't feel right for his fingers; I persevered with a keyboard whose numbers and letters wore off within a year. Maybe I have a higher masochism index.
The same terms might apply to human relationships. But we don't all draw the distinction in the same place. The personality flaw that sends one person in search of a divorce lawyer may be, for another person, merely a workaround.
Perhaps Darcie Clarke should have recognized sooner that Schoenborn had a fatal flaw - in his case, the morbid pun seems appropriate. Perhaps she thought she could work around it.
I'm not blaming her, but if she had made that distinction, sooner, she might have saved three children's lives.
Perhaps, for an eight-year-old girl growing up, it's not as crucial to recoil against every possible form of abuse as to learn to make wise choices, to know which human flaws she can safely work around, and which flaws could be fatal. Literally.
Jim Taylor is an Okanagan Centre author and freelance journalist. He can be reached at