An Alberta judge who examined the case of a man who killed himself and his severely autistic son cites a lack of resources in the province at the time.
But Judge Shelagh Creagh also wrote in her fatality inquiry report, released Friday, that "no system, including this one, is perfect."
She said the family received various supports and medical care from compassionate people before the murder-suicide in September 2009.
Police found the bodies of Jeffrey Bostick, 39, and his 11-year-old son, Jeremy, inside a barricaded bedroom in the basement of their north Edmonton home. A cylinder of carbon monoxide was in the room and the door and air vent were sealed with duct tape and wet towels.
The inquiry heard Bostick, heavily in debt, had moved in 2006 with his common-law wife, Deena Caputo, to Alberta from Ontario to find work. They also wanted better access to programs for children with disabilities.
Caputo testified that what they found were constant waiting lists and that getting help for her stepson Jeremy was like "pulling teeth."
The judge wrote that they weren't the only ones. A large number of families were moving to Alberta, particularly from Ontario and British Columbia, so they could get services for their school-age children. But the province was booming and its agencies were having problems with staffing and waiting lists.
By 2008, there were about 1,600 autistic children registered in Edmonton. Doctors said Jeremy was one of the most challenging they had seen. He didn't speak and had violent tantrums. He had attacked other students and a teacher at school and once smashed his head into a car window.
He had been hospitalized a few times before he was moved into a private home operated by the Alberta Association for Community Living. Two workers looked after him and his behaviour seemed to be improving.
But the price tag was costly -- $32,000 a month. The province funded the placement temporarily, but then told the family Jeremy would have to be transferred to a group home.
Bostick snapped after touring one suggested facility, which locked children in their rooms, said his wife. A week later, he and his son were dead.
"I cannot say that lack of resources created stressors that led to the murder-suicide. The decision about Jeremy's impending move ... was a likely stressor, but that is more about Mr. Bostick having to choose what to do rather than lack of resources offered."
The judge wrote that no one will ever know why Bostick did the "unthinkable," but he was under other pressures that included money problems. He had lost his job and owed the private home a month's payment. The province had been giving the funding to Bostick, who was then to pay the company.
Creagh also said Bostick and his wife were having marital problems and had talked about separating.
The judge made one recommendation: that a previous report into crisis care for families of autistic children be implemented to address gaps in services. The report, completed five months before the murder-suicide, endorsed the idea of emergency respite beds.
Patricia Terrett, a family support worker with the Autism Society of Edmonton, said it's not clear if the beds are in place, but families have more respite opportunities now than they did at the time Jeremy and his family were looking for help. It's also become easier for people to find access to services.
What families find most challenging, she said, are changing living arrangements or losing funding altogether. Most autistic children are no longer eligible for programs once they turn 18.
Terrett said the parents of one young man were unable to find him resources after he turned 18. He committed suicide last year.