On an unremarkable Friday morning in early July, Maria Mitousis’ life changed forever. And a chain of events was set off that left Winnipeg reeling.

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This article was published 29/12/2015 (2370 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

On an unremarkable Friday morning in early July, Maria Mitousis’ life changed forever. And a chain of events was set off that left Winnipeg reeling.

Guido Amsel

POLICE / HANDOUT

Guido Amsel

The 38-year-old lawyer was opening her mail at her River Avenue office when a letter bomb went off, critically injuring her. Two more letter bombs at other locations were safely detonated by police.

Mitousis lost her right hand that day, but she is alive.

Guido Amsel was charged with three counts of attempted murder as well as a list of other charges. He maintains his innocence.

It was a shocking act of violence, one that reverberated through the city. And the alleged motive behind it — a plot spurred by a lengthy, bitter divorce and civil court proceedings — raised all manner of questions about the legal system and divorce, incendiary rage and revenge, and how all those things intersect.

Archive video: Police update public after explosion injures lawyer

It was also a captivating story, so much so that Free Press readers named it the local story of the year, ahead of the Winnipeg Jets making the Stanley Cup playoffs, Greg Selinger maintaining control of the NDP, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman’s public spat with Mark Chipman over the CentreVenture development and a Maclean’s cover story declaring Winnipeg the most racist city in Canada.

"This story had all the ingredients of a made-for-TV thriller," says Free Press editor Paul Samyn. "There was the shock of the letter bombs. There was the life-and-death struggle of a young lawyer targeted in the blast. There was the ugly divorce proceedings involving the alleged bomber. And finally, there was the chill the attacks had on the city’s legal system. It is no wonder that this summer tragedy made national headlines and earned the nod from our readers as the local story of the year."

Ollie Ehrmantraut, who owns Ollie's Garage in East Kildonan, speaks with Laura Branconnier at about he spot they received a package that turned out to be a letter bomb allegedly sent by Guido Amsel.

MELISSA TAIT / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Ollie Ehrmantraut, who owns Ollie's Garage in East Kildonan, speaks with Laura Branconnier at about he spot they received a package that turned out to be a letter bomb allegedly sent by Guido Amsel.

It was a tragedy that set the city on edge. No fewer than five suspicious packages were reported on the following Monday, and the feeling of unease in the weeks following was palpable, among Canada Post workers and those in the law community especially. It is human to run down the list of what-ifs. What if Mitousis had lost more than her hand that day? What if those other bombs reached their alleged targets? What if they went off in a mail carrier’s hands?

There was another response to this story. Sympathy, frustration and rage on behalf of the accused bubbled up in comment sections on various media stories. Some decried our "feminist family courts" and the women who "treat men as wallets."

Those comments served as a disturbing echo of the simmering-below-the-surface rage police allege fuelled the letter-bomb attacks.

But this isn’t just a story about alleged vengeance. It’s also a story of resilience.

Archive video: Maria Mitousis speaks

In September, nearly three months after the blast, Mitousis spoke publicly for the first time. She was poised and articulate, thanking the first responders who saved her life. "I’m thankful the city has so many brave, selfless, dedicated professionals protecting us and who are there when we need them," she said.

Mitousis doesn’t feel sorry for herself. She survived something horrific, and she’s eager to move on. Forever changed, but not defined by it.

Many Winnipeggers took to social media to express their support. "I can’t remember this city ever being as captivated and enamoured with a citizen as we are with Maria Mitousis," one tweeted. Another: "I really admire Maria Mitousis. She is a woman with integrity and compassion who praises others in her darkest (hour)."

The light always cuts through the darkness.

 

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @JenZoratti

 

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti
Columnist

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.