Ex-girlfriend arrested in Monday homicide of father of five

Ottawa police have arrested the former girlfriend of a man found dead in his apartment Monday and expect to charge her with murder, this newspaper has learned.

Laura Dabene, 41, was arrested Tuesday night, hours into a hunt that had city police scouring Ottawa looking for the woman.

Dabene is expected to appear in court Wednesday afternoon where she will be formally charged with second-degree murder for allegedly stabbing 45-year-old Jason Saunders to death.

Police found Saunders’ lifeless body in a pool of blood inside his Cyrville apartment on Monday afternoon after receiving multiple 911 calls to check the unit at 1177 Cummings Ave. His death was initially believed to be suspicious with an autopsy planned for Tuesday. Homicide detectives confirmed foul play on Tuesday afternoon.

Saunders, a father of five who worked at a roofing and siding store, had been living at Cyrville Towers on Cummings Avenue near Ogilvie Road in the city’s east end, where a single police vehicle was parked outside on Tuesday afternoon.

His daughter Nickyla Saunders described her father as a “kind hearted man who helped the wrong person.” She recalled “a man that would move mountains for me at any costs he could.” She remembers when she and her sisters misbehaved as children that her dad could barely bring himself to punish them.

“We would just hug him and say, ‘I love you daddy’ and he would give in,” she said. “He was so sensitive to his girls.”

Saunders told his daughter everyday that he loved her. “He was an amazing father to me,” Nickyla Saunders said.

Jason Saunders with daughter Nickyla Saunders. POSTMEDIA

Jason Saunders’ Facebook profile picture FACEBOOK / POSTMEDIA

Dabene, who previously dated Saunders and will now face charges in his death, knows well the reality of having a loved one killed. Dabene’s father, just a few years older than Saunders, was beaten to death in 2009.

Kenneth Dabene, 52, had been scrounging empty beer cans from Bluesfest for cigarette money that July. He had struck up a conversation with another man. The two started drinking but ended up arguing before the man attacked Kenneth Dabene. He was found unconscious, in a pool of his own blood at the foot of the Prince of Wales bridge by a passerby and taken to hospital with blunt trauma to his head, suffering from a broken jaw and severe brain injuries. His family took him off life support days later.

At the time of his death, Dabene’s father had been living with her.

When her father’s killer was first set to appear in court, Dabene told this newspaper that she had to be there to see the man’s face.

“I want to show him that there are people there who cared for my dad … I want to see that this guy gets what he deserves.”

Nickyla Saunders said Wednesday that she, too, wants to see Dabene’s face.

Dabene’s father’s attacker eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 15 years in a psychiatric hospital.

In a victim impact statement she read in court in 2012, Dabene questioned how a person could take another’s life.

“The moment he got taken away I didn’t know what to say, do, or think. How could someone be so cruel?” she asked.

Dabene has twice been convicted of assault with a weapon — in June 2017 and again in January 2018. She is due back in court on Feb. 19 on unrelated charges of uttering threats, assault and mischief. Those outstanding charges were laid on Nov. 13 of last year after Dabene allegedly threatened death to all staff members and patients at the Montfort Hospital, assaulted a man and damaged oxygen tanks. She was released from custody on consent from the Crown that same day.

In 2000, at 22 years old, Dabene admitted to knocking on a man’s basement apartment window with the ruse of a message from his girlfriend and then standing watch while two other men robbed and ransacked his apartment at knifepoint.

She was handed a 12-month suspended sentence for her role in the crime.

Saunders also has a history with the courts, but from a decade ago. He has a criminal record that includes two convictions for assault in 2006 and 2008.

Saunders’ death is the second Ottawa homicide of 2020.

Police continue to investigate the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Manyok Akol on Gilmour Street in January. No arrests have been made in that case.