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Police recommending review after woman killed in front of Calgary elementary school

Calgary police are asking a provincial committee to review the events leading up to the murder of a mother outside an elementary school in the southwest.

“I think in situations like this, I think we owe a further duty to try to dig deeper, notwithstanding the obvious to try to figure out the why,” said Calgary Police Service Chief Mark Neufeld.

Officers were called to the school in the southwestern community of Strathcona just before school started on Tuesday.

They found the woman, a mother, with apparent stab wounds and were unable to save her.

The suspect, who had been previously charged and released by the courts on a no-contact order, was found dead nearby by police.

Police say in a statement that they have a robust approach to domestic violence, but every situation is complex.

They say police had engaged with the family numerous times, including charging the suspect on three separate occasions, but he was released each time with conditions, including the no-contact order.

Alberta’s justice minister can’t speak to specific cases but says further bail reform is needed, following new federal legislation enacted two weeks ago.

“We know that crown prosecutors are taking a very hard-line approach when it comes to serious offences,” said Mickey Amery.

“Is it a perfect system? No, it certainly can’t address and alleviate every single one of these tragedies, but we think that it’s working, it’s working well.”

On Jan. 4, amendments to bail were enacted into law, formerly Bill C-48.

“The amendments make targeted changes to the Criminal Code’s bail regime to address serious repeat violent offending with firearms, knives, bear spray and other weapons,” the legislation reads.

“The changes made at the bail stage will also address the enhanced risks posed by intimate partner violence (IPV). The changes seek to improve the safety of people and communities across Canada.”

The province directed crown prosecutors last year to argue before judges that violent repeat offenders should either be held in custody or subject to bail rules that will ensure public safety.

Amery says the province will investigate the circumstances leading up to the woman’s death.

“Everything is on the table,” he said.

“We will absolutely evaluate every single one of these circumstances we will look at our options.”

Court records show that the man was charged with sexual assault involving the woman on July 9, 2023, and had two counts of failing to comply with a release order. He was scheduled to appear in court next month.

Police said in the statement that there was also a warrant issued on Tuesday morning “in relation to domestic charges.”

They said that once criminal charges are laid, it’s up to the justice system to determine if the accused will be held in custody or released on bail based on the totality and severity of the offences committed.

“Bail reform is an ongoing conversation and is a concern for law enforcement agencies and our community when violent offenders are released after being charged,” said the statement. “The CPS has been a strong advocate for much-needed bail reform.”

They recommended that the case be reviewed by the Family Violence Death Review Committee.

It was established by the province in 2013 to analyze cases of family violence resulting in death, identify systemic issues, trends, risk factors and patterns from cases, and make recommendations to the government for intervention and prevention of similar deaths.

Police added that domestic violence crimes are vastly under-reported, and encouraged anyone facing any type of conflict to contact police or a support agency.

They said Tuesday’s case remains under investigation.

“The Calgary Police Service would like to extend its sincerest condolences to the family members and loved ones who are faced with a most challenging road ahead as they grieve their loss,” CPS said.

Its Victim Assistance Support Team is also available for anyone who may need help at 403-428-8398 or toll-free at 1-888-327-7828.

On Thursday, the team was in the community seeing around 30 people in search of support.

“We recognize that this is not an isolated event,” said Sgt. Daniella Seravalli.

“It impacts the whole entire community, an entire city really when things like this happen.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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