Fatality inquiry into caregivers death told client had long history of violence

A fatality inquiry into the death of a mental health worker who was killed in a client's home in 2011 has been told that the client had a long history of aggressive, violent incidents with caregivers.

CAMROSE — A fatality inquiry into the death of a mental health worker who was killed in a client’s home in 2011 has been told that the client had a long history of aggressive, violent incidents with caregivers.

Valerie Wolski, 41, was alone and providing care to Terrence Wade Saddleback in February 2011 when she was strangled in Camrose, Alta.

Saddleback was charged with manslaughter but was found mentally unfit to stand trial.

Marilyn Conner, executive director of a Wetaskiwin-area community organization that cared for Saddleback for 19 years, described hundreds of incidents where he pulled hair and was “volatile and explosive.”

Conner said his actions sometimes did not seem to be provoked by anything, adding he could be fine one moment and lunge at someone the next.

Conner told the inquiry it was “really scary” walking into a room with the man, who was six-foot-five.

“For me, I felt there was something else going on with him that was beyond our capacity,” she testified.

In 2009, a staff member was working with a client when Saddleback picked her up by the hair and threw her onto a table. Conner said eventually, all but two staff members refused to work with him.

The organization told the province it could no longer care for Saddleback because he was too dangerous and staff were afraid of him. Staff members offered to share their experiences and knowledge of working with Saddleback with whoever took over his care, but Conner said that meeting never happened.

Graham Jones, Saddleback’s legal guardian, previously said he warned the Canadian Mental Health Association that they needed to be careful with him, but his concerns were shrugged off.

A preliminary report released prior to the inquiry by Occupational Health and Safety said the province’s Persons With Developmental Disabilities Board failed to warn Wolski or her employer that Saddleback was violent and dangerous.

A Camrose police officer testified about walking into the crime scene in 2011 and seeing Wolski lying on the ground by the couch. Saddleback was sitting on the couch and clumps of Wolski’s hair were spread around the home.

The officer described interviewing Saddleback later, who said: “don’t punch Val, don’t hit Val, don’t pull her hair.”

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