Fundraiser set for slain professor’s children

ANTIGONISH, CANADA – A fundraising dance and auction will be held tonight for the children of a St. Francis Xavier University professor who died last week after being attacked in her home.

Ottilia Chareka was found in her Antigonish home last Thursday after a 911 call brought police to the house. She was taken to St. Martha’s Regional Hospital but died about two hours later.

Her husband, Patrick Chareka, has been charged with first-degree murder. He returns to court Wednesday.

The tragedy has brought the community together, said Jeff Orr, the dean of the university’s education department, where Ottilia Chareka was an assistant professor.

She leaves behind five daughters, including a daughter who attends St. F.X. and plays basketball. The parents of the girl’s teammates are organizing the benefit dance, which will be held at the Antigonish Legion at 8:30 p.m.

"There’s a wonderful group of parents who are organizing this," Orr said. "They’ve stepped up."

Chareka moved to Canada from Zimbabwe in the early 1990s. She studied at the University of New Brunswick, eventually earning her doctorate in education.

As a professor at St. F.X., she led the development of a bachelor of education program for African-Nova Scotians and an aboriginal school improvement initiative, among many other projects.

"She was a beautiful person," Orr said. "She was so able to relate to everyone around her and inspire everyone around her."

A memorial fund for the children has been created at the Bergengren Credit Union in Antigonish. A long-term system for donations, perhaps through cheque deductions or regular bank transfers, will be set up.

"A number of faculty and friends are putting that in place next week," Orr said, noting that the youngest girl is three years old.

"I’m starting off myself by making a 10-year commitment for a monthly contribution to pay into that fund."

Forty-seven year old Patrick Chareka made his first court appearance Thursday morning in Antigonish Provincial Court to face first degree murder charges in the death of 42-year-old Ottilia Chareka.

Surrounded by three court sheriffs and two RCMP members, Patrick Chareka stood motionless during his brief court appearance.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, members of the Antigonish RCMP responded to a 911 call from a residence on Centennial Drive in Antigonish.
When they arrived, they found Ottilia Chareka suffering from life threatening injures. She was transported St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish where she succumbed to her injuries.

An autopsy is being performed today in Halifax.

Ottilia Chareka worked as an associate professor at St. F.X. in the faculty of education.

“Any case where there is a loss of life is a tragedy, this one is no exception,” crown attorney Darlene Oko said, adding that the fact a young family is involved adds to the tragic circumstances.

There are five children left behind with the death of Ottilia starting at age three, 12, 16, 18 and an oldest daughter whose exact age wasn’t noted but who has made her way back from Alberta to help care for her younger siblings.

“My understanding is the children are being well cared for by friends, family… one of the older sisters has arrived here from Alberta and she’s caring for the children as well,” Oko said.

As for the first degree murder charged, Oko explained what constitutes first degree.

“First degree murder is a planned and deliberate killing which is what is being alleged here with the charge against Mr. Chareka,” she said, adding that her understanding is it did occur in the “matrimonial home.”

In regards to the difficultly of the case, Oko said it’s much too early to comment.

Defence attorney Gerald MacDonald said this is “as bad as it gets,’ when asked about tragic domestic disputes.

“There was a death… children have lost essentially both parents. It doesn’t get any worse,” he said.

The defence has elected a trial by Supreme Court Judge and jury.

Jennifer Desmond, a friend of Ottilia’s and fellow educator, was in the courtroom for the proceedings and following Patrick Chareka’s appearance, spoke of the loss.

“For the Antigonish community and for the world… she was an educator who believed in justice,” Desmond said. “She practiced it in her teaching and her every day life. She was definitely a role model and mentor to African Nova Scotian women and women in general. It’s an indeed a lost to the community, such a tragedy.”

Desmond also talked about the loss for the children.

“As a mother myself I can’t imagine how her children are feeling right now, basically losing both their family members, parents,” she said. “Indeed a loss for her children, my heart goes out to them.”

Patrick Chareka has been remanded in custody and his next court appearance, to set a date for a preliminary inquiry, has been scheduled for March 30 at 2 p.m. 

Nova Scotia