Marney Mutch, testifying as a witness at the fourth day of a coroner’s inquest into her son’s death, told the story of a young boy and man who could be “angelic” and caring, but struggled with abandonment issues, anger, undiagnosed mental-health issues and lack of suitable support in the child welfare and justice systems.
Rhett Mutch, 20, was shot and killed by Victoria police on Nov. 1, 2014, at his Dallas Road home. His mother called 911 after he broke a window to get into his basement bedroom, thinking she was not home. His mother had asked him to not come home after an argument earlier in the week.
In the year before he died, Rhett Mutch got into an argument with his mother and broke her laptop. Marney Mutch told the court she was desperate to get her son help. She said police had come to their home about 100 times before. She agreed to press charges, hoping he would get court-ordered help.
Rhett Mutch was given a conditional discharge for mischief under $5,000. He was not allowed to see his mom without her consent and he was mandated counselling for his anger issues, his probation officer told the inquest.
Lila Boulton said Rhett Mutch was one of 50 probation files she had at the time. She told the court she tried to get counselling for him. Her go-to, Forensic Psychiatric Services, would not take him because his charges were not serious enough. He did not want the private counselling his mom arranged because he said he was not comfortable in a group setting, Boulton said. He was open to counselling at the Men’s Trauma Centre, but got upset when he learned it would cost $30 an hour.
“He said he couldn’t afford it,” she said. Boulton described Rhett Mutch as a “good kid … forthcoming with pleasant interactions.” She said he did express suicidal thoughts to her at one point.
Marney Mutch told the court she was frustrated that her son was not in counselling, that suitable options were not provided and that there were no consequences when he refused to go.
“The only reason I agreed to charges is I was promised … that he had no choice but to participate in counselling,” she said.
She said the night her son was killed, she called police “out of sheer frustration” and expected officers to calmly talk with him, as they had many times before.
Rhett Mutch was in and out of foster care from the age of 11. His mother had initially requested respite care when she felt she couldn’t handle her son, but she said she was denied and told: “We don’t protect the parents.”
Rhett Mutch was placed in care and he and his mother were not allowed to see each other for a period. He later went voluntarily, becoming deeply attached to a foster family that later did not want to maintain a relationship.
He lived in youth shelters, went back and forth from his mother’s and eventually was on a youth agreement to live on his own.
Victoria police have been cleared of criminal wrongdoing in Rhett Mutch’s death. The coroner’s inquest seeks to determine the circumstances of the death. The jury can make recommendations to prevent similar deaths.