A former Perth South couple who made a public plea for financial assistance after the home they were renting was destroyed by fire in 2012 is facing charges in connection with the deaths of a Mississauga man and his mother.
Christopher Fattore and his common-law spouse Melissa Merritt were arrested in Nova Scotia Tuesday and charged jointly with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Mississauga man Caleb Harrison and his mother Bridget Harrison, who were killed in the same home three years apart.
Merritt was Caleb’s ex-wife, and together they had two children.
Merritt and Fattore were scheduled to appear before a judge in Halifax on Wednesday and return to Ontario in police custody.
Police say both mother and son died of asphyxiation in the family home on Pitch Pine Cres. — Bridget in 2010 and Caleb last August.
Bridget’s body was found at the bottom of a staircase. Her death was deemed suspicious and the case remained open but unsolved for several years.
Caleb’s August 2013 death was deemed a homicide. He had been living in the Mississauga home with his two children.
Bill Harrison — Caleb’s father and Bridget’s husband — also died suddenly and unexpectedly in the family home a year before his wife. An official cause was never determined, according to police, but there was nothing to suggest it was suspicious at the time.
Police said they have no evidence at this stage to conclude Bill’s death was a homicide, but it’s still under investigation.
Caleb and Merritt were married in 2003, but their relationship came to an abrupt end in June 2005 after he was charged with domestic assault and jailed for three days, court records from Brampton and Halton Region show. He was later convicted and given a suspended sentence plus two years’ probation.
In 2008, Caleb was convicted of impaired driving causing death and three counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm in a car crash that killed a cab driver. He received an 18-month jail sentence and a judge took away his license for two years. He began serving his time in the spring of 2009, when his kids were seven and five. Bridget and Bill were to have access to the children during his incarceration.
Bridget was a retired teacher and Toronto District School Board official; her husband worked in management for a grocery chain in the years before he died.
Not long after Caleb was jailed, in mid-April 2009, Bill was found dead in the family home. The death was sudden and unexplained. People figured he had an aneurysm or a heart attack.
Soon after Bill’s death, when Caleb was still in jail, Merritt disappeared with the children. Posters with photos of the two kids, their mother and her boyfriend were distributed by missing children’s groups. Merritt had by that time given birth to a third child with her new partner, Fattore, and was pregnant with a fourth.
Merritt returned to Mississauga after several months and was charged with parental abduction. She was convicted and in June 2010 received a 15-month conditional sentence and 18 months’ probation, according to court records. She did not serve time in jail.
Merritt lost access to the children she had with Caleb for several months after the abduction, according to court records, but has since been granted regular visitation privileges, though Caleb had sole custody.
At the time they spoke with the Gazette in April of 2012, Fattore and Merritt had been living in hotels trying to find a more permanent residence. They had with them five children. Fattore was working for Corby Poultry Services in St. Marys.
The couple was asking the public for monetary donations and household items to use once they found a new home. Items were being collected at a storage unit donated by Stratford U Store-it and at least two hotels in the area provided rooms to the family on a temporary basis.
A cause of the fire was never determined.
When they were arrested in Nova Scotia, all six children were with them. Police say the children are safe.
– Torstar News Service with files from Stratford Gazette