Sunday 15 January 2012

RIP Stephanie Hoddinott: Sad Second Anniversary of Preventable Murder

stephanie h
As part of an homage to those killed and injured last year in Tuscon, while Rep. Gabrielle Giffords lay in intensive care, I re-ran some of my previous gun control-related posts. This piece coincided with the tragic anniversary of the murder of Stephanie Hoddinott. This sad event occurred in Canada, a place with relatively stringent gun control, compared to the United States of gunhappy America.

Still, our laws are clearly not stringent enough, as her disturbed, estranged boyfriend was able to obtain a handgun for "target practice."

Unfortunately, the target was Stephanie. And how much practice is necessary to shoot someone point blank, anyway?

Here is a revamped version of my piece, which originally appeared in The Toronto Star:
It's been just over a year since another senseless handgun-related murder, the case of Stephanie Hoddinott, a 20-year-old woman. Stephanie had a 4.0 GPA in her veterinarian technician program, was smart, beautiful, and well-loved. On January 10th, 2010, she was murdered in her home by an ex-boyfriend who had legally purchased a handgun—supposedly for target-shooting. The crime has understandably devasted her mother, Brenda Passa: “Stephanie wasn’t just my daughter, she was my sister, and my best friend.”

The young man, Jake Ferrier, shot himself in the head almost immediately afterward, lingering several days on life support before succumbing to his self-inflicted injuries.

In a letter to Mr. Harper, Ms. Passa wonders why we permit so many guns in our society, since the vast majority of Canadians are no longer required to hunt for subsistence.

What she finds hardest to understand is why, in her province, an 18-year-old isn’t considered mature enough to legally buy a case of beer, but IS permitted to own a handgun.

It only takes one pull of the trigger to separate the law abiding citizen from the law breaking criminal, she says, pointing out that Canada's handgun restrictions haven't been updated since 1930.

Times have changed, she says: “Being 18 in 1930 is not like being 18 in 2010. Children live with their parents longer; they are younger emotionally and need time to develop before dangerous weapons”  are made available.

She wants Canada's Prime Minister to change the age limits for gun ownership. And she wants target shooters to have their weapons confined to shooting ranges.


“I hope no one ever has to endure what I went through,” she says.
On January 10th last year, Jake texted Stephanie repeatedly (he had texted her 40 times the day before). She didn’t respond, so he showed up at Passa's house. Stephanie's mom met him at the door to say her daughter wouldn’t see him.

He said, “Not even for two minutes?” and Ms. Passa told him, “No, not even for two minutes, Jake. I’m sorry, I can’t make her.” She shut the door.

“I liked him,” Ms. Passa says.

She feels nobody who knew him would have predicted what happened next, insisting there had been no warning signs.

But, she notes, he certainly must have lied on the Possession and Acquisition License (PAL), the form that's completed and (supposedly) assessed before a person is permitted to buy a gun.

Ms. Passa says the PAL asks several significant questions. “Guess what?” she says, “the murderer lied on his application.” Jake Ferrier’s parents were in the midst of a divorce, and he had also recently broken up with Stephanie, facts the form asked for but Jake declined to note. “People are lying on these forms,” she says.

Ms. Passa went to her daughter’s room—Stephanie was packing for Toronto where she’d just started working at U of T (the University issued a heartfelt lament of her passing).

Stephanie had plans for her life: she wanted to attend vet school, and her mother supported her ambitions every step of the way.

On that fateful day last January, her mother asked if Jake had made any threats, but Stephanie said the problem was only his incessant texting. The two women finally decided Ms. Passa would call the young man’s mother to discuss the situation. Ms. Passa decided she'd shower first.

And it was while she was in the shower that she heard two loud bangs.

By the time she threw on her pyjamas and ran to her daughter’s room, Stephanie lay face down on the bed and Ms. Passa’s boyfriend was speaking with 911.

She kept calling her daughter's name but there was no response. Turning the girl over revealed she’d been shot in the head. The 911 technician told Ms. Passa to start CPR. “I blew in her mouth--blood was coming out of her neck and the top of her head. My daughter died in my arms, to the sound of my screaming."

The 911 crew arrived to find her covered in her daughter’s blood.

stephanie h

Ms. Passa is clearly devastated. She has nightmares, she cries every day. She says she herself would legally be permitted to purchase a handgun immediately, asking, “Do you think I am in any state of mind to own a handgun?”

Ms. Passa intends to do everything in her power to toughen the gun laws. She is convinced keeping  guns at shooting ranges would be workable and effective. “Fighting this is the only thing keeping my will to live, that's the only thing I have left now. Stephanie is not dying for nothing.”

Prime Minister Harper, Ms. Passa wants to know, can you help her?

A Facebook page set up by Stephanie’s cousin Tyler Hoddinott, “RIP Stephanie Hoddinott,” has over amassed nearly 4,000 members.


  1. So much for those gunnutz claiming that if they got a license that means they're law-abiding & safe: criminals DO register

  2. I have had my RPAL since the day I turned 18 and I will have it till the day I die. If you want our guns, come and get them. Not the police, I mean "people" like you, that is if you know there is a whole country outside of Montreal all that is.

  3. The `problem` with the gun control registry is simple: guns are also occasionally a defense item with wildlife - or even stock matters when an animal is critically injured and mercy killing is expedient. And hunting is still a viable way of acquiring meat despite stories which abound about the activity ( I`m not a hunter. My dad - a priest - was until mother prevailed on him to get rid of his rifle for child safety reasons. )
    I see no reason handguns should not be restricted to shooting ranges. But the gun control proponents do have one thing right - as lying on forms suggests ( companies do it all the time ). Those who disregard the law will be the ones who are armed.
    Disarming is not seen as viable for those living near the wild - and resentment of what is seen as meddling by ignorant city dwellers in rural culture virtually guarantees non compliance while difficulty of searches makes enforcement problematic to say the least.
    Incompletion of the registry despite escalating financial resources put into the task tends to support this.