Four years ago, Milton Scott remembers getting a call from his son, Jay. It was a stormy night and Jay’s girlfriend was pregnant.
The doctor told the couple there was a possibility their child could be born with Down’s syndrome, but the tests came back fine. Jay was thrilled on the other end of the line as he told his father his son was going to be alright.
“He was so proud.”
Some of the former St. Thomas University student’s happiest moments were when he was with his son, Hunter, Scott said.
When he had to be away from Hunter, like when he moved to Fredericton to study at STU in 2009, Jay missed him dearly.
Earlier this month, the 27-year-old left his son behind for good.
RCMP in northern New Brunswick say Jay killed 38-year-old Tanya Couture at her home in Clifton, N.B. on Feb. 5. He then took his own life in a Bathurst apartment.
Police say the two knew each other, but Jay’s father didn’t know who Couture was.
Eleven days after the murder-suicide, Scott still doesn’t understand why his son did what he did. He may never understand. And he’s not sure he wants to know what was going through his son’s mind that day.
“Jason was certainly not in the [right] state of mind. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if I want to know what happened. I can’t believe that,” he said.
“For someone to go to that point, to take another life, but to take his own also, has to be at an all-time low.”
When Jay was with his son or at church – he was a devout Pentecostal who read the Bible from cover to cover more than once – he was happy.
But he had dark days, too.
“Jason had such great highs but he also had those low times where it was the [other] side of him,” Scott said.
“He was troubled. He fought with life sometimes. I guess it just got the best of him.”
Justin Brown first met Jay during welcome week in 2009. At the time, Brown was 23 and Jay was 25, and the two bonded because they were mature students returning to university.
Dressed in bright orange T-shirts, indicating off-campus pride, Jay convinced a reluctant Brown to join the cheer-off on the first day of welcome week, telling him he should be in the front row.
“He was like, ‘Come on, there’s kids here that are like 18 and they’re kind of intimidated and they need people who are older to kind of lead the way.’”
An avid reader, Jay came to STU to become an English teacher.
“I really wanted him to study English. He was so smart. If he would have applied himself, he would have had no trouble with university. But he just couldn’t apply himself,” Jay’s father said.
Brown grew closer with Jay when they started the Truth in Society Aquinas program, which combined religious studies, English and journalism.
In class, Jay had a commanding voice and knew a lot about history and politics.
“He was one of the smartest guys in our class, everything he said, we really hung off of. Every time he spoke up, we shut our mouths,” Brown said.
One of the class assignments was to keep a diary of learning journals.
In his, Jay wrote about attending his first play and contemplating how to balance his faith with what he was being taught in school.
Jay always had a smile on his face, which is why Brown was surprised when he started hearing dark thoughts from his friend.
After Jay missed a week or so of classes, Brown started receiving messages from him late at night on Facebook. He said Jay had been drinking and talked about suicide.
“It was really dark poetry, kind of. He wasn’t talking to me, he was talking at me.”
Brown wanted to help and thought alcohol was the root of Jay’s problems. But he wasn’t sure how to help.
Jay dropped out after first semester and Brown only talked to him once after that. He assumed he dropped out because he didn’t like the unconventional structure of the Aquinas class.
“I don’t feel like I really followed up with anything. I let him drop out. I let him have his own life and we lost touch,” Brown said.
“I’ve never really been in a situation where one of my friends has expressed to me that he was thinking about [suicide] and had it actually happen. I think that’s the part that upsets me the most.”
Milton Scott isn’t sure what he could have done to prevent what his son did. He knew he was depressed but never heard of his son getting violent with anyone.
“Sometimes people don’t vent and they keep it inside and all of a sudden they do something like this. It’s really hard to understand.”
His advice to others is to make sure depressed family members and friends have someone to listen to them.
“Communication is so important. When they indicate [they’re depressed], you’ve got to believe them.
“You’ve got to be able to read the signs. Get professional help or whatever it takes instead of pills and drugs.”
Scott is now focusing his energy on four-year-old Hunter.
“I just love Hunter dearly. I’m a big part of his life.
“I just want to make sure Hunter knows that his dad loves him.”