Hamilton Spectator

Aug. 22, 12:50 EDT

Dundas father of four gunned down at home

Victim's former wife is arrested on highway

John Burman and Lori Fazari
The Hamilton Spectator

Scott Gardner, the Hamilton Spectator
Hamilton police Detective Constable Scott Collings videotapes evidence where Bailey Russell collapsed after being shot at his home.

Scott Gardner, the Hamilton Spectator
A Dundas father of four collapsed on his front lawn and died after being shot at his home on Watson's Lane.
Scott Gardner, the Hamilton Spectator
Police blocked Watson's Lane and the nearby streets shortly after the slaying.

A Dundas father of four was gunned down at his front door yesterday after a bitter argument over child custody ended in gunfire.

Bailey Russell, 42, collapsed on the front steps of his Watson's Lane home after several shots were fired just before noon. The man's wife and four children, who were at home, were not injured.

Ruth-Anne Willis, 39, identified by Hamilton police as the victim's former wife, was arrested by Halton police about an hour later. The Prince Edward Island resident is to appear in a Hamilton courtroom this morning.

The slaying is Hamilton's sixth homicide this year.

Staff Sergeant Warren Korol of the police major crimes unit said last night Russell was pronounced dead at McMaster University Medical Centre.

Police Superintendent Terry Sullivan said a woman who left the house in a red pickup truck bearing Prince Edward Island plates moments after the shooting was stopped and arrested by Halton police on Dundas Street about an hour after the incident. A handgun was seized and the vehicle was impounded.

Earlier, neighbours who had called police to report a loud dispute at the house found the man's present wife kneeling on the grass beside him screaming.

"Wake me up!" she cried. "Wake me up! This has got to be a dream. My husband's dead."

The distraught woman was comforted by friends and neighbours and taken to McMaster University Medical Centre by ambulance.

A Halton officer spotted the wanted pickup truck going east on Dundas Street near Appleby Line at 1 p.m. Staff Sergeant Andrew Fletcher said the officer called in backup cruisers and the Halton tactical squad to stop the car and arrest the man and woman in it. Both were taken into Hamilton police custody.

Korol said the woman had stopped at a friend's home in Burlington and found no one home.

One of this person's neighbours realized she was upset and offered to drive her toward Oakville. He had no connection to the events in Dundas.

A member of the suspect's family told The Spectator yesterday the woman had been married to the victim and they had two daughters. The couple separated 10 years ago.

He said the woman recently came from Prince Edward Island, where she lives with her current husband, and went to the Watson's Lane home to discuss custody of their younger daughter.

Four young children were in the home when the shooting occurred. It is believed they were in the basement when the shots were fired. Police and victims' services staff sent to the house kept the four youngsters out of sight in the back yard while detectives searched the area. Arrangements were made for grandparents and other relatives to take the children.

Sullivan could not say how long Willis had been in the Hamilton area.

He said police were already on their way to the home, in response to the reported domestic dispute -- a priority call -- when calls flooded into 911 to report shots being fired, a description of a truck leaving the scene and the fact there was man dead on the lawn.

The shooting shocked neighbours on the quiet, tree-lined street nestled at the foot of the Niagara Escarpment. The family bought the two-storey grey brick home with a basketball hoop beside the driveway in December. Few of them knew the family other than to wave or say hi at the local variety store.

Julia Donnelley, who lives west of the scene, and her brother Dan Hull, of Burlington, were in her back-yard watching kids in the swimming pool when the shots were fired.

"There were quite a few. It was repetitive, like one right after another over and over."

Other neighbours, who declined to give their names, said they were horrified the gunfire took place in front of the home, because many children play on the street.

"What if there had been a stray shot or a ricochet? Who knows who might have got hit," said one man who lives across the road. "There are often a lot of kids out at noon."

Donnelley, who moved into the area two years ago because she liked it, said neighbours feel like family.

She chose the area "for the security of good neighbours," she said.

"This is very sickening."

Anyone with information about the shooting should contact Detective Dave Place at 905-546-3874.

You can contact John Burman at jburman@hamiltonspectator.com or at 905-526-2469. You can contact Lori Fazari at lfazari@hamiltonspectator.com or at 905-526-3993.

Copyright 1996-2002, The Hamilton Spectator.