Mother in Nanaimo tragedy had ‘such a loving spirit’
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.”
Seven-year-old Piper, her mother Amberlee Scarr and her father Jason Stephenson were found dead in a Nanaimo house fire.