Ottawa – In the days after Theresa Lefebvre was viciously attacked with a baseball bat by her husband, her 81-year-old mother was only allowed to see her youngest daughter for a few minutes at a time because Theresa‘s condition was so grave.
So Frances Moreau was left to sit in the hospital’s waiting room, thinking about the last few months of her daughter’s life – the abuse, the decision to leave her husband, and what else might have been done to prevent the attack.
Theresa, just 46 years old, died around 8: 30 a.m. Wednesday, a week after being beaten in her well-kept, two storey brick home in Stittsville. Her organs were donated to help others. Her death has been classified as Ottawa’s fourth homicide of 2012.
The couple’s children – aged 12 and 15 – are now orphans. Their father, Peter Lefebvre, called police after the assault on Theresa and told them he had killed his wife, then drove to the nearby Stoney Swamp Conservation Area and hanged himself from a tree.
“She was terribly frightened of him. She was afraid that if she left that, first of all, he would have found her,” Moreau said in an interview before her daughter’s death. “He did everything to stop the divorce.”
The story of the couple’s last months is difficult to piece together.
Peter’s family says it was not an abusive relationship, while Theresa‘s family says she lived in fear and sought a divorce after being attacked and abused by her husband.
What is agreed upon is that the couple began to have marital difficulties in the past few years.
Peter, who was heavily involved as a volunteer and coach in the Stittsville hockey community, took the news of his impending divorce hard, sinking into a deep depression, according to a statement from his family.
But his family claimed Theresa asked Peter for a divorce because she no longer loved him, not because he abused her.
A friend of Peter’s said last week the marital problems began about the same time he began taking antidepressants. His depression and irrational thoughts took a turn for the worse in December, she said, and a month ago Peter told her he wanted to kill himself.
He made good on his threats last Wednesday.
Theresa Lefebvre, with long, blond hair, was a strong and beautiful woman described by friends as “extremely intelligent” and “articulate,” and first and foremost a wonderful mother. Some close to Theresa have said that Peter found it hard to have such a beautiful wife.
“He (Peter) was so jealous and so mean,” Moreau said in an interview last week.
The youngest of six children, Ottawa native Theresa was a talented decorator who took care in choosing everything for her home, from the furniture to the tablecloths used at Easter dinner.
She was a rising star in her job as an assistant manager at Farm Boy in Barrhaven, and was well-liked by her colleagues. Theresa arrived at the start of each shift with her long hair tied back, colleagues said, and said, “Good morning” to her employees before honing in on what needed to be done in the store. She was a strict boss, but fair, and had a strong work ethic.
But the picture this vibrant woman presented to colleagues hid the escalation in the abusive marriage in which her family and closest friends say she was trapped.
She had asked for a divorce in the past few months, and the couple had thereafter signed a separation agreement, though they continued to share a home.
“I could see there was something holding her back. I didn’t know what,” a close friend and colleague said Wednesday just hours after learning of Theresa‘s death.
The friend also saw that in the week after she signed the separation papers, her outlook on life improved.
Lefebvre began to go out for drinks after store closing with a colleague, bonding with her over their failed marriages.
“I saw something about her personality that I never saw before,” the friend said. “It’s almost like she was starting all over again. I could see her blossoming. She had hope.”
Moreau agreed that Theresa seemed hopeful after agreeing upon the separation. She thought her life would improve, and that she had escaped.
It was not to be.
Moreau said she had encouraged her daughter to leave Peter Lefebvre on several occasions after she complained of the abuse, including on March 9 when police were called to their home after an assault.
Moreau said her daughter was bruised all over after she was thrown into a towel rack, but no charges were laid.
One of her children witnessed at least one of the assaults, Moreau said.
“She didn’t want to bring her youngest son to court to explain it. She was trying to protect her children and that’s why she, you know -” Moreau said, before trailing off. “You have to be almost killed until anybody does anything.”
Police report that neither party wanted to leave the house on March 9 for safe refuge.
However, the Citizen has learned that a week following the incident Theresa voluntarily went to the police station to have a bruise photographed.
Police were unable to say what sort of abuse precipitated this visit, but have said they remain satisfied that they made the right decision to not lay criminal charges in March.
On Wednesday, one friend and Farm Boy colleague of Lefebvre’s said she collapsed into another colleague’s arms upon hearing that Theresa had died.
“I broke down, I cried. We just hugged each other and I cried,” she said.
Several of Lefebvre’s sisters – she has four – visited her in the emergency room in the hours after she was attacked. She was barely recognizable, her head “bashed in,” her arms broken trying to defend herself and her teeth shattered, her mother said.
Even though Lefebvre was not conscious, the sisters told her they would look at after her children.
“The two boys were the most important things to her,” Moreau said.