University mourns loss of well-known student mentor

The words of a grieving family resonated across campus this week as the university joined them in mourning the loss of a mother and her son.

“As a mother and son, they had a strong and undeniable bond. They were at the core of a very loving family. Together we shared many milestones and happy memories. Our family was, and still is, grounded in respect, love and compassion for one another,” wrote Sam Costa, husband and father of the two family members involved in the homicide.

On April 7, shortly before 11 a.m., York Regional Police were called to a Dunvegan Drive, Richmond Hill, residence where two people were found dead with “obvious signs of trauma.” The homicide unit later identified Jeffrey Costa, 22, and his mother Karen Costa, 52, as victims in an apparent domestic-related homicide.

COSTA

COSTA

Jeffrey Costa served as a Soph in both Medway-Sydenham Hall and Social Science and was well-known by many on campus.

A post-mortem was scheduled for late last week. No additional findings had been released as of Wednesday morning.

In his statement, released by York Regional Police, Sam Costa explained how Jeffrey had struggled with mental health issues. The father said the “unspeakable tragedy” last week was the “result of a loving and protective mother trying to save her son from harming himself.”

Sam Costa wrote, “Over the last 20 years with all the mental-health fundraising efforts my family has been involved with, I never thought our lives would be so directly affected and altered by this illness. The void of their sudden loss is unexplainable.”

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Western brought buses of mourners to both the visitation and funeral in Richmond Hill. On Wednesday, the flag on University College was lowered in Costa’s honour.

Western is a campus, once again this academic year, mourning a Medway-Sydenham Hall student who died suddenly. On Oct. 11, Andrea Christidis, 18, a first-year Health Sciences student, was struck and killed by an impaired driver on campus. On Nov. 15, Daniel Craig Sandre, 21, a fourth-year Social Science student, died at his London residence.

The trauma caused by these sudden deaths will resonate well beyond the walls of just one residence, a Western expert said.

“When you read about all the residence has had to deal with in the past year, it is a reminder to all of us that there is a vicarious impact to trauma,” said Peter Jaffe, Academic Director for Western’s Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women and Children. “It is not just the individuals who suffer the tragedy directly; it is all those around the victim who are impacted deeply, as well. Some people will be more affected than others; some young people are going to be more vulnerable because they are already struggling.

“What it really speaks to is the importance of having supports in place and lots of opportunities for those young people to have a chance to debrief.”

While Jaffe has not been involved in this case, his internationally regarded expertise as an academic and a psychologist reaches across a broad spectrum of domestic violence issues, including domestic homicides.

Western has been reaching out constantly since the tragedy came to light. Most recently, the university has extended its hours for grief support three times now. The Community Room in the University Community Centre (UCC 269) will be open for students, faculty and staff from 2-6 p.m. through this evening.

Western officials also remind its campus community that counselling services are always available to assist faculty, students and staff. Visit Western’s Health and Wellness website for details.

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FAMILY STATEMENT

On Monday, Sam Costa, father and husband of the two family members involved in the homicide, released a statement through the York Regional Police. It read:

“As we mourn the loss of Karen and Jeffrey, we do find solace in knowing that they are together in heaven.

As a mother and son, they had a strong and undeniable bond. They were at the core of a very loving family. Together we shared many milestones and happy memories. Our family was, and still is, grounded in respect, love and compassion for one another.

We, as a family, never wavered in our unconditional support for Jeffrey who had been struggling with mental health issues.

This unspeakable tragedy that occurred in our family home last week was the result of a loving and protective mother trying to save her son from harming himself.

Over the last 20 years with all the mental-health fundraising efforts my family has been involved with, I never thought our lives would be so directly affected and altered by this illness. The void of their sudden loss is unexplainable.

We would like to thank York Regional Police, Western University and the other agencies for their professional and respectful handling of our family tragedy.

Karen and Jeffrey were so cherished and loved by their family and so many countless friends, co-workers, acquaintances and classmates.

The words of condolences and support we have received have been overwhelming and have brought much comfort to myself and my other two children.”