The chain of violence behind the horrific death of a GTA mother by fire
Warning: The following story contains graphic details.
Henrietta Viski had tried to escape.
This is emphasized by Zoe Budai, 17 when she talks about her mother and what happened in the years leading up to the day earlier this month when she returned from grocery shopping at her home in Scarborough to see her outside with burns all over his body and a red gas can lying on his side nearby.
Viski, 37, died in hospital the following day, June 18. Her ex-partner and Zoe’s father, Norbert Budai, was also seriously injured and taken to hospital. As heard in a Toronto court on Friday, Budai is expected to be charged with murder when and if he emerges from an induced coma.
Zoe wasn’t surprised.
“He was always physically abusive,” she says.
A series of court records and Zoe’s account of her mother’s efforts to escape her father detail a long series of violent incidents, threats and arrests in the months leading up to Viski’s horrific death by fire. .
It’s an emblematic chain of events of how the Canadian criminal system fails women trying to get out of abusive and life-threatening relationships, said Pamela Cross, legal director of Luke’s Place, a Durham-based organization that provides family law support for abused women. .
The story revealed in court records obtained by the Star shows that Budai was a “ticking time bomb”, Cross said.
“The penal system fails women every step of the way,” she said. “And women should try to protect themselves in every way possible.”
According to Zoe, the Budai family had come to Canada from Hungary three years ago in search of a better life. Viski was a stay-at-home mom who occasionally signed contracts with cleaning companies, she said.
According to court records, Budai was first arrested on May 17, 2021, when he threatened to kill her if she did not return to her native Hungary and she asked a neighbor to call the police.
“If you don’t leave, I’m going to kill you, break your neck, take a knife and slit your throat while the kids watch you die,” she told prosecutors. (In court, Budai later denied saying some, but not all, of it.)
After his arrest, Budai was charged with two counts of assault – including for allegedly choking Viski in a previous incident – and two counts of threatening death.
He was released the next day on $1,000 bond and a no contact or communication order with Viski, in person or by any means.
On October 4, he was arrested and charged with violating this no-contact order, then released without new conditions.
On October 30, he was arrested and charged with assaulting another woman. According to a summary of the allegations read in court, a woman living in the same rooming house as him showed up at his door to file a noise complaint. Budai allegedly got angry, grabbed her and tried to pull her into the room. She ran away, locked herself in the bathroom, then went to another resident’s room and locked herself there.
According to court records, Budai began knocking on the door, then slipped in a $100 bill and said, “How much?”
He was released again.
On November 22, Budai went to Viski’s apartment and started yelling at her and the children. According to court records, he called her three times that day.
The next day, he returned to Viski’s apartment, screaming again. He called his phone five times that day. During one of the calls, Viski picked up and, during a brief conversation, Budai reportedly said, “I’m going to kill you.” (In court, Budai denied saying this, saying he said, “I’m going to kill myself.”)
He was arrested on November 25. This time he was detained in prison.
Nineteen days later, on December 8, 2021, Budai pleaded guilty to three counts of threatening death, as well as two counts of breaching a stay away condition. by Visky. The charge of allegedly assaulting the woman in the rooming house was dropped at the request of the Crown.
He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and 18 months probation, along with an agreement to seek counseling, participate in a partner assault intervention program, and not communicate directly or indirectly with Viski.
After being credited with time spent in custody, Budai was released the next day.
The Viski case features many of the common red flags present in other domestic violence cases; A history of repeated breaches of court orders is a key topic in the ongoing investigation into the triple murder of three Eastern Ontario women in 2015.
“The attacker threatens to kill a woman and does not kill her. He makes the threat a second time and maybe a third time. And every time he makes a threat and doesn’t kill her, it seems to be interpreted by the criminal justice system – whether it’s the police, the judges, the justices of the peace when investigating the bail, probation officers — as evidence that he’s not really going to,” Cross said.
The criminal justice system must take “what women tell them” seriously and hold men accountable for breaking court orders, she said.
In a short statement in court during his guilty plea in December, Budai spoke of his desire to reunite with Viski and their three children. “I would like to be reunited with my family,” he said.
“I think it’s going to take a bit of time,” Ontario Court Judge Antonio Di Zio replied. “I think you’re going to have to get some advice and some help with your issues with your wife.”
On Friday, a Toronto East Detention Center officer told the court that Budai was still unable to appear on his pending charges because he was in a medically induced coma at Sunnybrook Hospital.
“He’s about 80% burnt,” the officer said.
For Zoe Budai, the days since her mother’s death have been “really hard and really complicated”.
She and her 14-year-old brother – he was home when their mother was killed – are currently living with her best friend, while her older sister stays with her boyfriend.
“I just try to keep it all together for my younger brother,” Zoe said.
She remembers her mother as “a happy person”.
“She had a young soul. She loved doing things teenagers did, she loved makeup and birthday parties,” Zoe said. “She got along with people of all ages, young and old.”
Her favorite memories of her mother are when she asked Zoe to take pictures of her around the house.
“She loved having her picture taken. She dresses and makes up. Then she tried to look serious, but she couldn’t stop smiling to make a funny face,’ she said.
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