Two women met in Kingston’s Frontenac County Courthouse to face off in a legal battle that’s been eight years in the making, as a convicted arsonist is suing her victim for harassment.
The first time Susan Eks and Kerri Tadeu saw each other in court was after Eks tried to set Tadeu’s house on fire while she and her family were asleep inside.
This happened on Sept. 25, 2011, when Eks, then a neighbour of Tadeu, took issue with her name being put on a neighbourhood watch list. Tadeu’s lawyer, Carlin McGoogan, said this caused Eks to go on an alcohol-fuelled “rampage” around the neighbourhood, during which she confronted Tadeu and threatened to kill her. The two had never met before.
Tadeu called the police, but no charges were laid. Later that night, Eks came back to Tadeu’s home with a can of gasoline and lit a portion of her home on fire. According to Tadeu’s lawyer, the only reason the fire didn’t spread was because of dew on the grass, which extinguished the flames.
In relation to that night, Eks pleaded guilty to arson, uttering threats and several counts of mischief for keying cars at Tadeu’s home.
McGoogan said Eks was given a more lenient sentence because she promised to move from her Apollo Terrace home. At the time of the crime and the following criminal trial, Eks also claims she was dealing with severe mental health issues and alcoholism.
In 2012, the judge gave Eks a suspended sentence — three years probation and a three-year restraining order requiring her to stay away from Tadeu.
After the criminal proceedings concluded, Tadeu filed a civil lawsuit against Eks, claiming damages of $1.5 million. This was for the aggravation, frustration, anger and inconvenience of going through the criminal court proceedings. The lawsuit was settled out of court in June 2014.
Tadeu is no stranger to being a victim. At age 11, she was kidnapped at knifepoint by a stranger and subjected to brutal acts of sexual assault, from which she still suffers post-traumatic stress disorder. Tadeu is a registered psychiatric nurse but has been on leave for the last several years due to mental health issues.
After Tadeu’s civil suit was completed, it seemed the two women could move on with their lives. That is, until Jan. 20, 2016, when Tadeu claims she spotted Eks parked on her street, allegedly glaring at her. Tadeu called police, but again, no charges were laid, since Eks’ restraining order was over. Nevertheless, Tadeu says two police officers suggested she file a peace bond against Eks.
Wednesday’s court proceedings centred specifically on what, exactly, Eks was doing back on Appollo Terrace that morning in January 2016.
For her part, Eks denies ever staring at Tadeau on Jan. 20, 2016. She explained that she still had a friend who lived on her old street and she was there to pick her up for their usual walks around Cataraqui Mall.
That friend, Eleanor Redlich, appeared as a witness on Wednesday in support of her “good friend.”
Redlich claims that Eks came down the street, parked outside her driveway and drove her away.
Eks also said that she had been on the street at least three times before the Jan. 20, 2016 visit when Tadeu noticed her.
“I figured I could go pick her up,” said Eks while on the witness stand. “I wasn’t thinking about running into [Tadeu].”
McGoogan claims that, in fact, Eks was returning to the “scene of the crime” to intimidate Tadeu.
The peace bond process was eventually thrown out because Tadeu didn’t show up for one of the court appearances.
Eks claims the peace bond was one of the many ways in which her one-time victim was harassing her.
After Eks planned to move from her home to be away from Tadeu, the latter took it upon herself to hand out flyers describing Eks’ crimes to her new neighbours. Tadeu admitted to doing so in court, saying she thought it was a matter of public safety.
She also admitted to hiring a private investigator to hand out flyers to Eks’ new neighbours and rifle through Eks’ garbage.
During this time, Eks was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. The stress of all these incidents prompted Eks to sue Tadeu, claiming $100,000 in damages.
Tadeu’s lawyer called Eks’ pursuit of the civil proceedings a “perverse travesty” and a “classic case of victim-playing by the plaintiff.”
The intense cross-examination of Tadeu by Eks’ lawyer, David Adams, brought Tadeu to tears.
Adams took issue with Tadeu’s motivation for pursuing a peace bond, handing out the flyers and hiring a private investigator, alleging that these were vengeful acts to make up for Eks’ not being sent to jail.
“There’s no way of accepting that she has tried to get better, that she has remorse?” Adams asked Tadeu.
Tadeu, who still suffers from PTSD from her childhood trauma and her experience with Eks, claims that the sight of Eks has caused significant stress, which is why she has filed a counter-suit, claiming damages and asking for an injunction that would keep Eks away from her permanently.
She said she was still “very afraid of Susan Eks,” who she says is “obsessed” with her.
A decision will be made on Thursday.
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