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Community left reeling after tragic incident in Coniston

Friends in the local arm wrestling club, which the family was highly involved in, describe them as community-minded people
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Greater Sudbury Police say a tragic incident in Coniston on Oct. 30, 2022, was a murder-suicide. Deceased are Brian and Janet Desormeaux and their teenage son, Ashton.

Though the details are still scarce, the community of Coniston is left reeling after the deaths of Brian, Janet and Ashton Desormeaux in what Sudbury police have now ruled a murder-suicide

As the community mourns, those who knew the family are reaching out to honour their memories and ensure that those who are suffering have an outlet for their grief. 

A post earlier this week on the Spotted in Coniston Facebook page invited community members to a candlelight vigil in Coniston's Centennial Park on Saturday evening. A person saying they represent the family contacted Sudbury.com this afternoon to say the event has been postponed at the family's request.

Both Brian and Ashton Desormeaux were members of a local arm wrestling club, and they recently participated in the seventh annual Sudbury Arm Wrestling championship on Oct. 22. Organized by the elder Desormeaux, the tournament brought people from all over Northern Ontario to see the 85 competitors.

A public memorial post on the club’s Facebook page about the family describes what they meant to the people who knew them, and the loss that is left behind. 

“It’s unfortunate times like this that seem to bring together people,” the post begins. “We gathered as an arm wrestling family last night to mourn the loss of Brian, Janet and Ashton Desormeaux. We all needed time to talk, reflect and share stories of arm wrestling about the Desormeaux’s.”

The post continues to describe the couple as genuine, kind community members, who will be missed. 

“Brian was not only an arm wrestler, but a friend, role model, teacher, promoter and like a dad to many of the younger pullers. He had a tough-looking exterior, but was a truly nice guy underneath. He cared about his family and the sport of arm wrestling. He provided contacts for many of us to get jobs and supported anyone who asked or needed help. He was a good community member who helped out anyone who needed it. Brian, your enthusiasm and dedication for the sport will be heavily missed.”

Janet Desormaux was also honoured by the group. 

“Janet, your smile, passion and dedication to your family and their endeavours was contagious. Those who met you, and your wing woman Bessie, knew your heart was always in the right place. Your overwhelming love for your children and husband was hard to deny. You gave your family all of you…something you couldn’t ask for more in a mom and wife.

And of Ashton, the post described “the next generation of arm-wrestling greats.”

“Your passion as a child and youth for the sport is what we all want from our younger pullers,” it reads. “You were fierce and fiery on the table and proved that you could back up your words.”

It ends with a note for those left behind.

“Take the time to talk to your loved ones, friends and anyone who may be in need of a listening ear. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions in life.”

On Oct. 31, families of students from St. Charles College, the school 17-year-old Ashton attended, received a letter from Principal Aaron Barry addressing the incident and referring to available mental health supports for those who are struggling. 

“It is really important if you or your child are not feeling well in any way to reach out for help,” reads the letter.  “Suicide should not be an option. If you or your child needs help in any way, we encourage you to call the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, 1-833-456-4566, call 911, or take your child to the emergency department at Health Sciences North.” 

Barry noted in the letter that personnel from the Sudbury Catholic School Board’s Crisis Response Team were available to our students and staff beginning yesterday, and that should you have any concerns about how your child is dealing with this situation, you should contact the school.

“Today and over the coming weeks, you may be concerned about your child’s reaction, or expressions of feelings about this unexpected loss. He or she might find it hard to concentrate and complete their school work. Your child might be unusually quiet, or show displays of anger. He or she might instead show very few reactions, particularly if the child was not a close friend,” Barry states. “These are just some of the normal reactions that are part of the grieving process. Normal grief reactions can be very intense for children and adolescents and very different at different ages.” 

The school routine will continue as normally as possible, states the letter, and Barry closes with: “In dealing with death, we need to remember the value and dignity of life. We ask for your continued prayers for Ashton, his family, his friends, and our community.”

Officers were dispatched to the home at 25 Caruso Street at approximately 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30, for what police referred to as “unknown trouble.”

They entered the home, “as there were immediate concerns for the person’s well-being,” police said in a media release. Upon entering the home, officers located the family.

Detectives from Greater Sudbury Police’s Criminal Investigation Division are working in collaboration with the Coroner’s Office on the investigation.