ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Friends and family of a slain Labrador woman say her alleged killer’s death while incarcerated shows how the justice system failed both the victim and the accused.
Jonathan Henoche, 33, died last week at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s, N.L., reportedly following an altercation with correctional officers. His lawyer has since advocated for a public inquiry, saying Henoche’s death denied him his right to a fair trial.
Henoche had been awaiting trial for multiple charges from 2016, including the murder of 88-year-old Anna Regula Schule in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Linda Saunders-McLean, who was a friend of Schule, remembered her as a kind-hearted person who worked with inmates and with her church community.
Schule, who went by Regula, came to Labrador from Switzerland as a missionary in 1967. Up until her death, she was known for offering support through food, money or Bible teachings to anyone who knocked on her door.
“She did what she loved doing, and that was to help others,” Saunders-McLean said by phone Tuesday. “She always felt like there was a chance, that they could change, or things would turn around in their lives.”
The long wait for a trial, which ended abruptly last week, has left the community without answers about the circumstances around Schule’s death and how it was investigated.
Saunders-McLean said her friend, who left behind an adult daughter, would have wanted Henoche to receive help rather than be locked away for years. She said his death does nothing to address violence against vulnerable women and mental-health struggles.
“Those are the people that fall through the cracks on both ends,” she said. “I know Regula would have wanted this man to have gotten some type of help, some kind of justice.”
Bob Buckingham, Henoche’s lawyer, described his client in a statement as a man “with many troubles and difficulties not of his own making.” He said Henoche, who was from Labrador, struggled with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. “Throughout his 33 years our education system, health care system and justice system failed Mr. Henoche,” the statement read.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is investigating Henoche’s Nov. 6 death, and the provincial Justice Department said it will conduct a review, looking at staff response and the appropriateness of policies and procedures.
Jerry Earle, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, has said correctional officers were involved. Earle said last week that two correctional officers were allegedly assaulted by Henoche and more officers then responded. He was not aware how many people were involved in total.
Buckingham has called for the province’s chief medical examiner to lead an inquiry into the death and for greater support for individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder who find themselves incarcerated.
Hannes Schule, Regula’s nephew, said in an email that he initially felt some relief that the long wait for a trial was over, then anger that the sudden end to the process means he and other relatives in Switzerland will never know what happened or why.
He said such answers are important for Schule’s family to finally say goodbye.
“The first (relief) came when the suspect was caught and we hoped to learn more about the terrible night and the background,” Schule said.
Instead, he said, it has been three years of waiting, with little information coming out, even after seeking assistance from federal police in Switzerland. “The communication inside the family was always circling a bit around the unsolved case,” he said.
Saunders-McLean said Henoche should have received more support, calling it an “injustice” that family and friends have been robbed of answers because her suspected killer was “just locked away and forgotten about.” She said the episode is a sign that “our systems are breaking down, or they’ve broken down.”
Both Saunders-McLean and Schule said they continue to remember Regula as a woman of faith who lived a long, full life dedicated to helping others.
“I’m going remember Regula for what she did, not for what happened to her,” Saunders-McLean said.
Henoche is the third inmate to die in Her Majesty’s Penitentiary — and the fifth in a Newfoundland and Labrador correctional facility — since 2017.
A review last year of the four previous inmate deaths, led by a retired police superintendent, described a mental health crisis in the province’s largest men’s and women’s facilities.
The families of two inmates have since filed lawsuits, one led by Buckingham, claiming that negligence by the province worsened their loved ones’ mental health conditions and led to their deaths.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 13, 2019.
Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press