My name is Donna McCully.
It was always our wish to live in Jamaica in our dream home. So, in August 2012, my husband Sedrick Levine and I left Canada to move into our new home. We were thrilled to finally be starting the next chapter in our lives, in Sedrick’s beloved homeland. He bought a little bus and planned to operate tours for visitors to the island. I was helping him run this business venture, as part of our semi-retirement in Jamaica.
My life as I knew it was suddenly shattered when two masked men broke into our home on Sunday, November 17, 2013. Sedrick struggled with the men, allowing me to flee upstairs to call the police. His actions saved my life that day, and that of my father and his housekeeper, who were visiting us at the time. One of the masked intruders chased me upstairs and kicked in the bathroom door, but he stopped when he heard a gunshot from downstairs.
My husband Sedrick was killed that day and the men fled our home with a laptop. The Jamaican police have not yet found these men or charged them with killing my beloved husband. Their motive remains unknown.
This crime has completely changed my life. I suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder now and have depression as a result. I came back to Canada, but I feel very isolated since this happened. These emotional scars may never heal.
I managed to find the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime by searching online one day. I didn’t know where to turn for help when I came home to Canada. The CRCVC has provided me with a lot of emotional support, which has been tremendously helpful. They’ve also written numerous letters to Jamaican officials seeking justice for Sedrick, as well as intervening with Canadian officials on my behalf. The office also helped connect me to a trauma therapist for counselling sessions too.
In order to try and make sense of what happened to Sedrick, it is my hope that others could support the work of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime. There are so many other victims/survivors out there who also need their assistance.
In 2004, I met someone online and thought she was the woman of my dreams. I have cerebral palsy and finding love has never been easy for me. More than anything, I wanted to get married and have a loving family. The woman, an escort named Darquise, gained my trust and convinced me that she really loved me.
She targeted me because I was vulnerable and had recently lost a loved one. I thought the romance was real and I didn’t see the warning signs. In early 2006, Darquise expressed to me that she wanted to leave the escort business and start a more long-term relationship. Shortly thereafter, she presented me with multiple investment ventures in the Dominican Republic, on the pretence that this would be a way to start a life together. She also informed me that she was pregnant and used this supposed pregnancy as a negotiation tool when trying to obtain more money from me.
Darquise later informed me that she had suffered a miscarriage. Then in December of 2006, Darquise faked her own death to prevent me from travelling to the Dominican Republic. I was devastated when I was informed of her death and turned to my friends for support. They helped me realize I had fallen victim to an elaborate romance scam to the tune of more than $800,000.
I decided to submit evidence of the fraud to the police and learned that Darquise had fled the country to Jamaica with her husband – she had been married throughout our entire ‘relationship’. She returned to Canada several months later and was arrested. Four years later, Darquise was convicted of a number of fraud-related charges. As a result, she was sentenced to 4 years in prison for what the judge called a sophisticated fraud and ordered her to pay restitution totalling $847,000 to me.
The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime was there for me during the criminal trial, when I had to give evidence and read my victim impact statement in court. They have helped me to be physically present at Darquise’s parole hearing in order to have a voice and helped me communicate with the corrections and parole authorities. The CRCVC has also tried to help me collect the restitution the offender owes me. This has been almost impossible. As the victim, I have had to pay for forensic accountants and lawyers to try to trace the money she stole. While my overall debt has now risen to more than $1.4 million dollars, I have yet to recover even a small fraction of what is owed to me.
The offender is free after completing her sentence and only has to re-pay 20% of her earnings per month to me, if and when, she is actually working. The province of Ontario does not assist in any way, and have told me (and other fraud victims) it is my responsibility to try to collect what he is owed. I am grateful CRCVC continues to advocate for victims of fraud, who should have government assistance to enforce restitution orders.
On June 26, 2017, the unthinkable happened to my family. My 25-year old son Ashton James Dickson was shot and killed outside a bar in Ottawa. Ashton was a wonderful man, a superior athlete, and loving friend. He had the highest personal ethics and was loved by everyone who knew him. He stood up for his friends and the underdog. He had a strong sense of integrity and wanted everyone to be treated with kindness and compassion.
Ashton had dreams of playing professional football in the CFL. He was an All Canadian running back with the X-Men at StFX University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, finishing his university career there as the school’s all-time leader in rushing yards. The 2017 X-Men season will be dedicated to the memory of Ashton.
He did not deserve to die the way he did. Ashton was left bleeding in the street after an altercation in the bar and sadly succumbed to his injuries. His senseless homicide has left an enormous void in my life. I cannot put into words how my heart aches for my son and for justice. The police have not yet laid charges in my son’s murder, which makes moving forward difficult. The people who did this to Ashton should not be walking free. I fear for the safety of other young people in my community the longer these killers are on the streets.
In order to make meaning of Ashton’s untimely passing and to give back to the Ottawa community, I’ve been working with the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime to address gun violence in Canada’s capital, as Ottawa saw a record number of shootings in 2017 (69 as of December 18, 2017). I am also working with CRCVC to advocate for a number of measures that will increase safety in bars and restaurants in the downtown core given that binge drinking and being young are factors found to be strongly associated with the risk of violent victimization. The office is also helping me to start a weekly Support Group meeting for people who have experienced loss due to violence. I am very grateful to this agency and hope you might consider supporting their important work with victims and survivors.