A Richmond Hill mother was trying to protect her son from harming himself when the two of them died last week, her husband said in a statement released Monday. “We, as a family, never wavered in our unconditional support for Jeffrey who had been struggling with mental health issues,” said Sam Costa, father to 22-year-old Jeffrey Costa and husband to 52-year-old Karen Costa — who both died Thursday in their Richmond Hill home.
“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.
“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,” he continued. “Our family was, and still is, grounded in respect, love and compassion for one another.”
York Regional Police have been investigating the deaths as a murder-suicide since the bodies were discovered Thursday, and had expected to release more information Monday, but decided to wait in light of comments from the family, Const. Andy Pattenden said.
“We will release cause of death. It’s the not the right time when the family says they want to make a statement,” he said.
“The statement kind of alludes to what happened and gives more detail than we would put out.”
In the statement, Costa continued to talk lovingly about his wife and son and candidly about mental illness.
“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,” he said.
“The void of their sudden loss is unexplainable.”
Jeffrey and Karen Costa were remembered together in an online obituary that described a loving and close-knit family that summered at a cottage in the Kawarthas, near Peterborough. Jeffrey, a Western University student, also has a brother and a sister.
Loved ones were asked to consider donating to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
Funeral arrangements have been made for mother and son, with visitation scheduled for Tuesday from 2-4 p.m. and 6:30-8:30 p.m. and the funeral Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at Holy Cross Catholic Funeral Home, 211 Langstaff Rd. E., Thornhill.
Western has arranged buses for both days to take students from campus to the funeral home, and says its flag on University College hill will be lowered to half staff Wednesday.
The university also has added hours for grief support — originally set for the weekend — and now extended through Tuesday.
Jeffrey Costa’s death dealt a devastating blow to those who knew the engaging and community-minded student. Well liked, he’d been on the dean’s list and had recently been accepted to graduate school.
The fourth year Social Science student had a passion for mentoring new students and did so as an orientation week leader or so-called “soph” for social science and Medway-Sydenham Hall.
However, despite his ability to brighten the world around him, those who were close to Costa said he had long suffered mental health issues. Despite having a strong support network — including friends, family and professional mental health workers — he struggled.