SIMCOE – The mother watched and worried as her daughter started to unravel psychologically, for no apparent reason.
Outgoing and generous in Grade 8, she suddenly became withdrawn and depressed. By the end of high school, she was lonely, moody, had few friends and couldn’t sleep at night.
“After she went to bed, my husband and I would check on her periodically. She would go to bed so upset we feared for her safety,” the mother said in court during this week’s sentencing hearing for former teacher Kris Coulombe.
Coulombe was found guilty last December on 10 counts of having sex with five female students.
He will be sentenced Feb. 21.
Reading from a victim-impact statement, the woman described the aftermath of the sexual abuse her daughter suffered at the hands of Coulombe while she was a pupil at Townsend Central elementary school.
“Before she was victimized, she was a beautiful little girl with a wonderful personality,” said the woman, who cannot be named because of a ban on identifying the victims.
“Somebody stole my girl from me. Sad doesn’t even hint at my pain.”
Today, the young woman has finished university and will need “ongoing counseling” for depression, the mother said.
Coulombe was arrested nearly two years ago and charged with having sex with female students at Waterford District High School and Townsend elementary, between 1999 and 2003.
Five women — who were between the ages of 14 and 17 at the time of the incidents — testified how they had sexual contact with Coulombe at school, in his car and at his Waterford apartment.
This week, Crown Attorney John Ayre called Coulombe a “predator” and suggested a jail term of five to six years.
“This is a breach of trust with multiple victims over a reasonable length of time. This is not a one-time act,” Ayre said.
Coulombe, he said, used “the mask of trust and respectability” as a teacher to groom and recruit the young women.
Defence lawyer Mike McArthur told Judge James Turnbull that his client has “zero assets,” has sold his house, lost his career, and will leave his wife with two children, aged four and 4-1/2 months, to take care of.
His family situation “is a factor to be taken into account” in sentencing, said McArthur, who suggested a term of three to four years.
“It’s not supposed to crush a person . . . Obviously, Mr. Coulombe has to have something to go forward on. He’s going to have to go on and be a father to those children.”
Coulombe, he added, “is not a pedophile,” pointing to a psychological examination of his client carried out by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
Both McArthur and Ayre agreed Coulombe is unlikely to re-offend.
Ayre also called for Coulombe to give up his two rifles, provide a sample to the national DNA bank, and to go on the sex-offender registry for the next 20 years.
Meanwhile, as the criminal case winds down, a civil lawsuit moves in closer.
Robert Talach, lawyer with Ledroit Beckett of London, said he has “been retained by one (victim) and approached by another” to pursue a suit against Coulombe’s ex-employer, the Grand Erie District School Board
Talach helped with the suits against the London Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in the wake of sex scandals involving priests.
Board spokesperson Tony Lavarone said the board has not been served with any civil suits in connection with the case. “There’s nothing we can comment on,” he said.