A wrenching portrait of a family's struggle to help their severely autistic son emerged Tuesday during the inquiry into the deaths of the 11-year-old boy and his father.
Jeremy Bostick was found dead alongside his father, Jeffrey Bostick, two years ago. The disabled boy's father had sealed them inside a room in their Edmonton basement, stuffing linens into the vents, duct-taping the doors and opening a canister of carbon monoxide until they died together.
The family was under severe stress at the time, fighting constantly to get help for their out-of-control child, the fatality inquiry heard Tuesday.
The boy was prone to violent outbursts and staff were either leaving because of his behavioural problems or because funding would run out. One doctor suggested the child was too difficult to handle and should be given up for adoption.
"It was difficult because we needed services now. Our child was in desperate need," said Deena Caputo, Bostick's common-law wife.
"We would get somebody, but they would just not like the situation and walk away, and we would lose all services completely."
In emotional testimony Tuesday, Caputo said she could almost pinpoint the moment Bostick lost all hope for his boy.
$90,000 behind on care payments
"His eyes were glossed over. He wasn't human," Caputo said, recounting her husband's first visit to the lockdown group home where they were told Jeremy would have to be transferred. "It's like he snapped. He didn't say a word, not one word."
Before that, Jeremy began showing improvements in 2008, Caputo said. He was able to stay at a private facility the government was funding at a cost of $32,000 a month. He was there on weekdays and was tended to by two workers.
But Caputo said when the province moved Jeremy to a group home, her husband shut down emotionally. She said his behaviour became zombie-like.
"The garbage that we had to go through just to get to this point, the loss of my son's life is not a big enough statement to make sure that all these kids get services," she said.
Bostick was $90,000 behind in payments for Jeremy's care when he took his and his son's life.
She said they moved in 2006 to Alberta from Ontario so Bostick, heavily in debt, could find work and have access to better programs for children with disabilities. Along with Jeremy, who was her stepson, she had a biological son with attention deficit disorder and oppositional defiant disorder.
"It was always a waiting list. It was always an availability issue. It was like pulling teeth to get any type of service."
Caputo said she and Jeremy's dad were concerned that he would hurt himself or others in a group setting.
Dr. Keith Goulden, a pediatrician specializing in autism, testified Jeremy had a severe form of autism combined with an intellectual disability. He was off and on medications, including tranquillizers.
Goulden said autism is a frustrating and stressful disorder for families to deal with because there is no treatment. Educational supports offer the best solution.
"All of us have a breaking point," Goulden said. "All of us can get to the edge of whatever cliff that is."