Mother in Nanaimo tragedy had ‘such a lov­ing spirit’

Times Colonist - - The Capital And Vancouver Island - CINDY E. HARNETT ce­har­nett@times­colonist.com • To do­nate: gofundme.com/ Am­ber and Piper

The fam­ily of Am­ber­lee Scarr and her seven-year-old daugh­ter say fi­nan­cial hard­ship caused by a sep­a­ra­tion and cus­tody bat­tle drove her back to her ex-hus­band.

Scarr, daugh­ter Piper and ex­hus­band Ja­son Stephen­son were found dead in their Ni­col Street home in Nanaimo on Tues­day fol­low­ing a house fire that po­lice have called sus­pi­cious.

The cou­ple had re­cently reunited.

Mercedes King de­scribed Scarr, her cousin, as full of good en­ergy and gen­er­ous to a fault.

“She had such a lov­ing spirit and would give you ev­ery­thing be­fore she would take any­thing for her­self,” King said.

“It didn’t mat­ter a per­son’s walk of life, she would just give and give and give, and peo­ple took too many things from her and she ended up where she was.”

She said Piper was “a lit­tle ray of sun­shine, just a won­der­ful lit­tle be­ing with lots of at­ti­tude and sass.”

But King said her cousin was in a vul­ner­a­ble po­si­tion af­ter the cou­ple’s breakup.

“She didn’t have enough sup­port on her own even, though ev­ery­one of­fered,” King said. “She worked var­i­ous jobs try­ing to make ends meet and set her­self up on her own af­ter the sep­a­ra­tion.”

Stephen­son, a heavy equip­ment op­er­a­tor, wasn’t work­ing af­ter the breakup and also strug­gled, said his boss David Stalker, who owns an ex­ca­vat­ing com­pany in Lady­smith.

Stalker said Stephen­son went through a rough time af­ter the sep­a­ra­tion, but only wanted to look af­ter his daugh­ter.

Scarr and Piper had re­cently moved back in with Stephen­son af­ter a two-year sep­a­ra­tion and cus­tody bat­tle over Piper, Stalker said.

“They had just re­cently in the last two months got back to­gether to try and make a go of things. He was happy with it be­cause his daugh­ter was happy.”

Trevor Ain­scough, a Toronto man who had dated Scarr, said Stephen­son was abu­sive, but Scarr went back to him in the hope that he would change and they could cre­ate a happy fam­ily for their daugh­ter.

Scarr’s fam­ily is still reel­ing from the deaths and try­ing to plan a pub­lic memo­rial. Her sons, 17-year-old Benson and 15-yearold Adam, are help­ing to plan the cel­e­bra­tion of life, King said. A date has not been set.

“We’re all just look­ing for an­swers as to why and what hap­pened,” she said. “It was so tragic and so sud­den and we’re just try­ing to come to­gether and fig­ure out where we go from here.”

King set up a do­na­tion page for the fam­ily to pay for the cel­e­bra­tion of life, with any money left over to be put in a trust for the boys.

She said she ex­pects the memo­rial to be large.

“Our side is First Na­tions and we have lots and lots of fam­ily,” King said. “Ev­ery­one is a cousin and aunt and un­cle, and I’m sure they’ll all be there for her.”

The boys are com­forted by the out­pour­ing of sup­port, she said.

“I think they are feel­ing they are not alone.”

SUB­MIT­TED

Seven-year-old Piper, her mother Am­ber­lee Scarr and her fa­ther Ja­son Stephen­son were found dead in a Nanaimo house fire.

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