Family members of a Salt Spring Island mother who died on Monday say she had left her marriage and was retrieving items from the family home when she was ambushed from the woods by her husband of 18 years, who shot her twice, then turned the gun on himself.
John Quesnel, 48, and Jennifer Quesnel, 41, both died Monday, leaving three sons, ages 12, 15, and 17.
John Jr., 17, said his father murdered his mother in “cold blood” because he “couldn’t handle seeing her happy.”
Salt Spring RCMP were called to the couple’s rural home on Fulford Ganges Road just before 5 p.m. on Monday, said RCMP Cpl. Chris Manseau. They found a 48-year-old man dead and a 41-year-old woman with serious injuries. She was taken to hospital where she later died.
Some Salt Spring residents have demanded details about what happened, but neither the police nor the coroner have provided much information.
On Friday, Jennifer Quesnel’s family shed some light the tragic events.
In a statement, the family described Jennifer as “a gentle and loving mother” and said she had finally made the decision to leave her marriage and was the happiest she had ever been.
Jason Fraser is married to Catherine Fraser, Jennifer’s twin. In a phone interview, Jason Fraser said Jennifer had recently left her husband and had been staying in Sidney with her brother, Glenn Hamilton, who could not be reached this week.
John Jr. said about a month ago his parents started talking about divorcing.
“Three weeks ago, she kicked him out of the house, and about a week before it happened, she went to Sidney,” he said.
At that point, John Quesnel moved back into the family home, he said.
On Monday, Jennifer Quesnel returned to the family home with the intention of retrieving some items and attending to her horse, giving it feed and medication.
It was arranged that John Quesnel would leave the house overnight. “He agreed to stay at his other property for the night and not come home and leave her the house,” said John Jr.
“He was not supposed to be there,” said Fraser.
Jennifer Quesnel had spoken to the RCMP about an escort to the property, but decided her husband wouldn’t be a threat, said the family statement. “Additionally, she was reassured by the fact that all his firearms had previously been confiscated and his vehicle was not in the driveway.”
But on Monday morning, John Quesnel bought a gun from a friend who said he had “no idea this would happen,” said John Jr., who noted his father was “mentally unstable.”
John Jr. said according to police, John Quesnel was in the woods that evening and ambushed Jennifer Quesnel, shooting her twice before shooting himself.
“Unknown to Jennifer, John had parked in a secluded area nearby and hid himself from view, armed,” the family statement said. “He couldn’t stand to see her happy and if he couldn’t be happy, neither could she. It was a selfish act by a coward and bully, and committed in the most cruel and premeditated way.
“She had finally made the choice to leave and it was the happiest she had ever been, being away from him.”
The couple’s three sons were not home at the time, said RCMP.
John Jr. said he was at the family home with a friend about 15 minutes before his mother, but did not see his father.
Family members say John Quesnel had a history of “controlling and abusive behaviour.”
Both Jason Fraser and John Jr. said Quesnel was verbally abusive, but neither imagined he was a deadly threat.
Police have said no one else was injured and they are not looking for suspects.
John Quesnel, who grew up on Salt Spring and was politically active, owned the Salt Spring Metal Recycling scrap yard. He had recently applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, said family friend Holger Hermann.
Hermann knew the couple were having marital problems but said he didn’t foresee Monday’s events.
Jennifer Quesnel was a busy mom, an equestrian and a member of the All Arabians Horse Association of British Columbia. There was a stable on the couple’s property and a horse run was being created.
Stephanie Portingale, who has set up a fundraising page to help Jennifer’s children — Jacob, Daniel and John Jr. — called her a “friend to everyone that knew her.”
Messages pouring in from from friends, family, strangers and fellow Islanders show how greatly loved she was “and what a huge hole it has left in the hearts of our Island family, and most importantly, her three boys, who loved their mother more than anything in the world,” said Portingale.
“Jennifer was taken from us, and her boys, during a time of hope for her.”
Portingale said that Jennifer Quesnel had new dreams and aspirations and felt positive about the days ahead.
“She was starting a new life for herself and everyone was happy for her,” said Portingale. “She had a lot of hopes of how her future would look now.”
Kisae Petersen, executive director of Islanders Working Against Violence on Salt Spring Island, said on Monday that intimate-partner violence is a daily reality.
Islanders Working Against Violence has continued to provide anti-violence services, transition housing and crisis-line support for women and families during the pandemic, said Petersen.
“There is intimate-partner violence on Salt Spring and with COVID there is this growing intensity of violence and increased vulnerability for women in abusive households,” said Petersen.
John Jr. doesn’t believe stresses that accompanied the pandemic added in any way to his father’s state.
“She was leaving him — that’s what it comes down to. He couldn’t handle it,” said John. Jr.
Fraser added: “He didn’t want to see her move on without him.”
Jennifer Quesnel’s family said their only solace is that in recent weeks, they once again saw their sister, daughter and mother happy and rediscovering “what life could be like.”
• To donate to Jennifer Quesnel’s sons: gf.me/u/x7cy8f
• To get help or information for domestic violence: