Christine Hale says she lost as much as $100,000 to a man who told her he loved her while inventing lawyer fees and death threats
Steven Vanbuskirk was Christine Hale’s first love. At 16, he was the first person who told her she was pretty and made her feel like she mattered. She was badly bullied in high school, and latched on quickly to his affection. She remembers a night out bowling with friends; she and Vanbuskirk wandered off and talked for three hours. She felt special, connected.
They had a child together a year later, a son who’s now in his 20s. Their relationship didn’t last for long, but they stayed in touch and were on friendly terms. They both married other people, and then both got divorced. Hale has two children from another partner, now 11 and nine.
She said she never got over Vanbuskirk, though. In December 2015, he was struggling financially and planning to move back to the Westshore. So she offered him her couch, happy to help him get on his feet. He didn’t pay rent or help with bills, but was helpful around the house, and the kids liked him. He couldn’t keep a job, but it was never his fault, and it seemed like he was trying. Their romance rekindled.
In the early days, she remembers a simple night of making dinner at home. “We were just cooking together, and the camaraderie and the laughter—it just felt amazing. I was so happy. I really felt wonderful and like we were a real family. But then, it was nothing tangible, it was always just words,” she said, looking back.
“I had gotten out of a bad marriage, and when he came along it was like, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t know things could be this good.’ Until it wasn’t.”
Instead of the rekindling of her first love, Hale was in for a months-long series of increasingly expensive demands for money, sometimes to pay for understandable costs, and other times to cover costs that in retrospect sound insane to Hale. It all amounted to $100,000, first from her savings and then going deep into debt, and left the mother of three facing bankruptcy alone.
‘I hate to ask’
In the spring, Hale gave Vanbuskirk money to visit a close family friend who was sick. Then she died, and Hale let him pawn her wedding rings to get to the funeral. Soon after, Hale’s own grandmother died and while she was away for the funeral she found out Vanbuskirk hadn’t paid the pawn shop, and her rings were gone for good.
He got another job and life was calm for a few months. Then on Friday, Oct. 13, 2016 Hale got a text: “I just got arrested!!” He had been accused of defrauding WorkSafeBC. He told Hale his ex-wife was framing him; that he was innocent.
In November, things escalated. He owed a fine for missing a court date in Port Hardy. “We paid a fine, and the bench warrant went away,” Hale wrote in her statement to police. She was sending money directly to his lawyer to help out. In December he needed to spend a week in Campbell River with his lawyer before court. She bought his bus ticket and paid for a hotel, and sent him $800 on Dec. 8 for food, cigarettes, and cab rides to the lawyer’s office.