By Michele Mandel
After years of warnings that went unheeded, Keira Kagan’s broken body lay in a coroner’s office, unable to hear the agonized cries of her mother and stepfather.
“We saw our little girl, cold and lifeless,” Philip Viater wept late Tuesday, after returning to the Thornhill home he shares with Keira’s mom, Dr. Jennifer Kagan, and their eight-month-old son.
Four-year-old, tousle-haired Keira was supposed to return to her family Sunday night after her weekend visit with her dad, Robin Brown. Instead, her body was found alongside that of her father’s at the base of a cliff in Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area.
An autopsy is scheduled to be completed by tomorrow but the investigation continues. Police want to know if she was drugged or knocked out before she plunged to her death, Viater says.
“I want the public to know this was murder,” he insists. “The guy’s a psychopath that we’ve been warning about for three years.”
Yet despite all the signs, the courts ignored them all.
For Brown, Viater says, it was always about “power and control” but it was slipping away.
And so if he couldn’t have his daughter, no one would.
Married in 2013, Kagan soon learned the husband she’d met online was a forgery — from the friends he claimed couldn’t make their wedding to the PhD he pretended to have from MIT. She told the court Brown had been physically and sexually violent — he once stuffed a dead rat in her mouth in a fit of rage and forced her to watch him drown a litter of bunnies one by one in their backyard — and solicited submissives for sadomasochistic sex during their three-year marriage.
While noting his “aggressive and somewhat bullying” nature and “propensity to lie,” a judge in 2018 granted Brown generous access to their daughter — three out of four weekends and two nights a week. And while Keira was with her dad, he refused to let her speak to her mom and tried to brainwash her into believing he was the only one who really cared.
“Daddy said that you don’t love me,” Keira would tell her mom. “Daddy said that I shouldn’t miss you.”
That poor little girl told her psychologist she used to have a book of photos of her mom that made her feel better when she was at her dad’s house. “But she relayed with sadness that her dad told her that ‘the dog ate the book’ and she no longer has it,’” a judge was told.
The judicial tide, though, was slowly beginning to turn against Brown. In August, a judge awarded Kagan access every other weekend and more time in the summer.
In their bitter custody battles, Brown had racked up more than $150,000 in costs awarded against him for breaching court orders; yet irrationally, he still wouldn’t comply. Instead, his bad behaviour was escalating: Police had to be called in October when he refused to return Keira.
A judge suspended his access for a week and then reinstated it with a warning that his many chances may finally be coming to an end.
Brown lost again in court in December after he tried to take Keira away on an extended vacation to Disneyworld when it wasn’t his access period. Two weeks later, he was before a judge once more after threatening not to return Keira, according to the court-ordered holiday schedule.
Last Thursday, Kagan and Viater had to call police yet again when Brown refused to let Keira out of his car.
His behaviour was becoming more and more concerning.
“It’s his weekend with her, how can we release her into his care?” Viater had despaired in a text to their lawyer that night.
But they had no choice. They had another court date next week and Viater was sure they were finally going to win their bid to have Brown’s access curtailed.
“I was told on the Friday before (her death) by the social worker that Mr. Brown is exactly the kind of person who would kill Keira to harm Jennifer and she was very concerned,” Viater alleges.
Tragically, she may have been right.
“We don’t want Keira’s death to be in vain,” her stepfather says desperately. “There needs to be better education. Judges need to learn about the warning signs.”
So another innocent child doesn’t end up in a morgue.