Eric and Sade-Lea Tekoniemi stand in their home, where a gruesome double murder took place in 1996. They are suing the real estate firm,
agent and former owners.
Eric and Sade-Lea Tekoniemi thought they had bought their dream home in Bowmanville last fall.
But it turned into a house of nightmares after they learned it had been the scene of a horrific double murder 15 years earlier.
That discovery has now led to a lawsuit against the real estate firm, an agent and the house’s former owners for allegedly failing to reveal the home’s history.
“I suffered panic attacks and am still on anxiety medication,” Sade-Lea Tekoniemi said Monday of her response to living in the house.
Eric Tekoniemi noted he also felt stress at work and less companionship at home. The uncertainty about his wife’s health and the frequent trips to the emergency room were hard on him, too.
Although the couple said they wanted to cancel the $253,000 sale as soon as they learned of the house’s history, their lawyer said it was too late because they were legally bound under terms of the deal.
But the Tekoniemis decided to sue those involved in the sale of the split-level, partial-brick house, with a claim filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
Ron England, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, murdered his mother, Marian Johnston, 74, and stepdaughter, Jenny, 6, in the home on April 2, 1996. He stabbed his mother 34 times and the child 89 times. The little girl was left lying on the floor with a knife embedded in her heart.
The Tekoniemis are seeking $450,000 in damages plus costs, from Re/Max First Realty, agent Mary Roy, and former owners Arthur Hewer and Sharron Lindsay, who had themselves purchased the home several years earlier.
The claims made in the lawsuit have not been proven in court.
Ron Gordon, the broker-owner of Re/Max First Realty, would not talk about the case, saying, “I don’t discuss company business with people outside the company.”
Hewer and Lindsay said their lawyer advised them not to speak about it because the case is before the courts. Roy could not be reached for comment.
The couple filed the claim last week. The defendants have not yet submitted statements of defence.
The Real Estate Council of Ontario, which regulates the industry, issued a warning to Roy last month on the grounds that she “deliberately withheld a material fact known to her” regarding the murders from the buyers, contrary to the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act. The decision followed a complaint by the Tekoniemis earlier this year.
The council cited several provisions in the act’s code of conduct, including not engaging “in any act or omission that, having regard to all the circumstances, would reasonably be regarded as disgraceful, dishonorable, unprofessional or unbecoming a registrant.”
Lawyers say the case involves a grey area in common law on the issue of “duty to disclose” — and how to assess what information that entails.
If the claim proceeds to trial, it could become a test case for the doctrine of “caveat emptor,” or buyer beware, and whether the couple’s situation is an exception to that general rule.
In their statement of claim, the couple described the murder information as a “material defect...which stigmatized, psychologically impacted and tainted the property.”
The claim said Sade-Lea Tekoniemi had suffered severe depression, and sleep and mood disorders because of the murder revelation and living in the house.
She has experienced heart palpitations, shortness of breath, faintness, nervousness when sharp knives are not out of sight when not in use, and visualizing “extremely graphic and horrifying images during unguarded moments” related to the murders, the claim added.
As a result of continuing health problems, the couple say they want to sell the home but recover any depreciation in value from the defendants because they want proper disclosure made to any future owners.