‘Dad would never hurt mom intentionally’: Toronto man, 82, apologizes for strangling Helen Fronczak, his wife of nearly 60 years — (Toronto Star)

SSRI Ed note: Man given antidepressants after tragedy is withdrawn, lethargic, strangles beloved wife in fit of delirium, no memory after. Media sees domestic violence.

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Toronto Star

By Betsy Powell Courts Reporter

Tue., Dec. 29, 2020

Helen Fronczak, seen here in an undated photo posted to an online memorial, was found dead on March 18, 2019. Her husband Larry Fronczak pleaded guilty last month to manslaughter.

An 82-year-old Toronto man told his sentencing hearing Tuesday he is deeply sorry for killing his wife of almost 60 years and that he still finds it hard to believe “that I was capable of such violence.”

Larry Fronczak pleaded guilty last month to manslaughter in the death of Helen Fronczak, who was 79. He was originally charged with second-degree murder.

“I hope one day to find some forgiveness and explanation for what occurred,” Fronczak, wearing an orange jumpsuit and blue and white mask dangling from his ear, said during the Zoom hearing while sitting in the video room at the Toronto South Detention Centre. His walker was parked behind him.

“I remember very little about the facts that led to my Helen’s passing, though I understand the magnitude of what I did.”

On March 18, 2019, Mark Fronczak, went to check on his parents in their Etobicoke home. He and paramedics found his mother lying dead on the floor of a darkened room of the couple’s Richview Park apartment. A belt and hanger were around her neck. The cause of death was later determined to be ligature strangulation from the belt, according to an agreed statement of facts.

Larry Fronczak, then 80, was found lying next to his wife’s body, a knife and hammer beside him. He was taken to hospital and treated for superficial cuts to his abdominal area and a horizontal scratch on his throat. He received stitches to his abdominal wound, according to the agreed facts.

What happened in the hours leading up to the killing remains a mystery and court heard there was no prior history of domestic abuse. By all accounts, they had a happy, loving marriage as they raised their three children.

Fronczak was represented by lawyer Alvin Shidlowski who is seeking a suspended sentence, which would mean his release from jail, and three-years probation. Crown attorney Sunita Malik is asking for a prison sentence of between eight and 10 years.

The court heard numerous supportive letters from family and friends — including from two of the couple’s three children. They all indicated there was a dramatic change in Fronczak’s behaviour and appearance after his grandson, who had struggled with addiction, froze to death in January 2019.

“He was no longer talkative, he began to appear unshaven and tired. The father I knew for the better part of 50 years changed in front of me in a matter of weeks,” Mark Fronczak wrote in his letter read aloud by Shidlowski.

To cope at the time, Fronczak was prescribed antidepressant and sleeping medication that he said Tuesday made him feel “horrible,” adding: “I was not my normal self.” Before her killing, Helen Fronczak had voiced concerns that he was being over-prescribed medications, the agreed statement of facts said.

Daughter Cathy described her parents as “best friends first then partners.”

“Dad would never hurt mom intentionally. I had just lost my son and now both of my parents were taken away from me. I love my dad very much. I know in my heart he did not mean to hurt mom,” her letter said.

Toronto homicide case highlights realities of domestic violence among seniors — (the Globe and Mail)



An 80-year-old Toronto man has been charged with the second-degree murder of his 79-year-old wife, reviving calls for a broader awareness of the vulnerabilities faced by seniors when it comes to domestic violence.

Police have released few details about the death of Helen Fronczak, believed to be the fourth victim of domestic homicide in Toronto so far this year.

Officers were called to her apartment in a high-rise building near Kipling Avenue and Eglinton Avenue West around 8:25 p.m. Monday. When they arrived, they discovered the woman with obvious signs of trauma. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Her husband, Larry Fronczak, 80, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

Although much about that case is still unknown, it highlights the reality of domestic violence in the city, said Detective Ann-Marie Tupling, Toronto Police Service domestic-violence co-ordinator. She said the service receives an average of 17,000 to 19,000 domestic violence-related calls each year; the majority of victims of domestic violence are overwhelmingly women.

Because most of these victims are young, researchers argue the particular vulnerabilities faced by seniors are often overlooked.

“I think when we talk specifically about domestic violence we tend to overlook older women who may be victims of domestic violence. They’re certainly at lower risk compared to younger women, but they’re still at risk, and it needs to be recognized,” said Peter Jaffe, director of the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children at Western University.

In nearby York Region, police are investigating the murder-suicide of a 68-year-old woman and her 73-year-old husband that took place in their home March 11. In that case, police had been called to the same home one day earlier by Sara Cimerman. Her husband, Efraim Cimerman, was charged with assault, and was ordered to stay away from the home. He had no previous criminal record and was released on a promise to appear in court later this month. But the next day, police were called to the home again – this time by a concerned family member – and the couple was found dead.

In Ontario, all intimate partner violence-related deaths are reviewed by a Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (DVDRC). According to the committee’s 2012 report, one in five women killed in Ontario between 1974 and 2012 were over 55.

Two-thirds of them, said Mr. Jaffe – who sits on the DVDRC – were isolated from social and work supports. Just over one-third were killed by an intimate partner. A unique factor amongst domestic-homicide cases involving older people is that, although fewer risk factors are usually present, the ones that are there – usually around mental or physical health – are quite pronounced, Mr. Jaffe said.

“The most significant risk factor that stands out [in cases of older people] is depression and health concerns,” he said.

Health and mobility issues and financial dependence can be barriers for older people accessing support, said Amber Wardell, co-ordinator for the Ontario Association of Interval and Transitional Houses’s Aging Without Violence project. But part of it, she said, could also be attitudinal.

“Maybe she really believes that this is a personal, private matter,” Ms. Wardell said. “And just that recognition of the idea of what is abuse, what is violence. And how that changes across generations.”

But ensuring those supports are reaching seniors who need them is still a challenge, partly due to the silos they operate in.

Mr. Jaffe agrees: “As a society we’re certainly more aware of elder abuse, and protecting our senior citizens, but domestic violence is still a subset of elder abuse that we tend to overlook.”