Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Two killers from Hell (part 2) 

In part 1, I previously told my readers about Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka who are two Canadian serial killers. I described their backgrounds; Bernardo’s many rapes, the death of Homolka’s youngest sister and the murder of one of the duo’s first victim. In this article I will describe the death of their second victim and the police investigation, their arrests, trials, sentences and the aftermath, 

After having got away with the murder of 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy  this time they tried a different technique. On the afternoon of April 16th, 1992, Bernardo and Homolka were driving through St. Catharines looking for potential victims. It was after school hours on the day before Good Friday. Students were still going home but by and large the streets were empty. As they passed Holy Cross Secondary School, a main Catholic high school in the city's north end, they spotted Kristen French, a 15-year-old student, walking briskly to her nearby home. The couple pulled into the parking lot of nearby Grace Lutheran Church and Homolka got out of the car, map in hand, pretending to need assistance.

As French looked at the map, Bernardo attacked from behind, brandishing a knife and forcing her into the front seat of their car. From her back seat, Homolka controlled the girl by pulling down her hair.

Kristen took the same route home every day, taking about 15 minutes to get home in order to attend to her dog's needs. Soon after she should have arrived, her parents became convinced that she had met with foul play and notified the police. Within 24 hours, Niagara Regional Police had assembled a team and searched the area along her route and found several witnesses who had seen the abduction from different locations, thus giving police a fairly clear picture. In addition, one of French's shoes, recovered from the parking lot, underscored the seriousness of the abduction.

Over the three days of Easter weekend, Bernardo and Homolka videotaped themselves as they tortured, raped and sodomized Kristen French, forcing her to drink large amounts of alcohol and to behave in a submissive manner towards Bernardo. At Bernardo's trial, Crown prosecutor Ray Houlahan said that Bernardo always intended to kill her because she was never blindfolded and was capable of identifying her captors.

The following day, the couple murdered French before going to the Homolkas' for Easter dinner. Homolka testified at her trial that Bernardo had strangled French for exactly seven minutes while she watched. Bernardo said Homolka beat her with a rubber mallet because she had tried to escape and that French ended up being strangled on a noose tied around her neck secured to a hope chest. Immediately thereafter, Homolka went to fix her hair.

French's nude body was found in a ditch on April 30, 1992 in Burlington, approximately 45 minutes from St. Catharines, and a short distance from the cemetery where Leslie Mahaffy is buried. She had been washed and her hair had been cut off. It had been thought that the hair was removed as a trophy, but Homolka testified that the hair had been cut to impede identification. That doesn’t make any sense at all.

On the weekend of January 12, 1991, according to author Stephen Williams, Bernardo abducted a girl, took her to their house and raped her while Homolka watched; afterward he dropped her off on a deserted road near Lake Gibson. Bernardo and Homolka referred to her simply as "January girl".

At about 5:30 a.m. on April 6th, 1991, Bernardo abducted a 14-year-old who was warming up for her duties as coxswain on one of the local rowing teams. The girl was distracted by a blonde woman (Homolka) who waved at her from her car, enabling Bernardo to drag her into the shrubbery near the rowing club. There he sexually assaulted her, then forced her to remove all her clothes and wait five minutes, during which he disappeared.

On March 29, 1992, Bernardo stalked and videotaped two sisters from his car and followed them to their parents' house. The sisters incorrectly recorded his licence plate number. One sister reported the incident to Niagara Regional Police on March 31, 1992 and was given an incident number should further information develop. With Kristen French under Homolka's guard on April 18, 1992, Bernardo went out to buy dinner and rent a movie. He was spotted by one of the sisters, who attempted to track him to his house. Despite losing him, she got a better description of his licence plate and car, which she reported to police. This information, however, was mishandled by police and slipped into the "black hole" to which Judge Archie Campbell would refer in the Campbell Report of 1996, an inquiry into police mishandling of evidence in the case.

Homolka and Bernardo had been questioned by police several times  in connection with the Scarborough Rapist investigation, Tammy Lyn Homolka's death, and about Bernardo's stalking of other women. The questioning was before the death of Kristen French. The officer filed a report, and on the 12th of May 1992, an Niagara Regional Police Service sergeant and a constable interviewed Bernardo briefly. The officers decided that he was an unlikely suspect, although Bernardo admitted having been questioned in connection with the Scarborough rapes. Three days later, the Green Ribbon Task Force was created to investigate the murders of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French.

Meanwhile the couple applied to have their names changed legally from Bernardo and Homolka to Teale, which Bernardo had taken from the villain of the 1988 movie Criminal Law—a serial killer. At the end of May, John Motile, an acquaintance of Smirnis and Bernardo, also reported Bernardo as a possible murder suspect. In December 1992, the Centre of Forensic Sciences finally began testing DNA samples provided by Bernardo two years earlier.

The Bernardo’s relationship was beginning to falter. On 27th of December 1992, Bernardo severely beat Homolka with a flashlight on her limbs, head and face. Claiming that she had been in an automobile accident, the severely bruised Homolka returned to work on the 4th of  January 1993. Her skeptical co-workers called Homolka's parents, who assumed they were 'rescuing' her the following day by physically removing her from the house. Homolka went back in, frantically searching for something. Her parents took her to the St. Catharines General Hospital, where her injuries were documented. The E.R. said that her injuries  "were the worst wife-beating case they had ever seen. ever seen. She gave a statement to the Niagara Regional Police claiming she had been a battered spouse and filed charges against Bernardo. He was arrested but later released on his own recognizance. A friend who found Bernardo's suicide note intervened. Homolka moved in with relatives in Brampton in January 1993.

On February 1st, 1993 the Toronto police discovered from a twenty-six-month-old sample that Bernardo was the Scarborough Rapist. After questioning Homolka, she admitted everything (about the rapes in Scarborough) to her lawyer and sought full protection for her cooperation.

The Metro Toronto Sexual Assault Squad investigators interviewed Homolka on the 9th of February 1993. Despite telling her their suspicions about Bernardo, Homolka concentrated on his abuse of her. Later that night she told her aunt and uncle that her husband was the Scarborough Rapist, that they were involved in the rapes and murders of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, and that the rapes of those two victims were recorded on video tape.

On the 11th of February 1993, Homolka met with Niagara Falls lawyer George Walker who then sought full immunity from St Catharines' Crown Attorney Ray Houlahan in exchange for her cooperation. Homolka was placed under 24-hour surveillance.

The next day, George Walker met with Murray Segal, Director of the Crown Criminal Law Office. Walker told Segal of videotapes of the rapes and Segal advised Walker that, considering Homolka's involvement in the crimes, full immunity was not a possibility.

The Metro Sexual Assault Squad and the Green Ribbon Task Force detectives jointly arrested Bernardo on numerous charges on 17th of February 1993, and obtained search warrants to search the duo’s home in Port DalhousieBecause Bernardo's link to the murders was weak, the warrant contained some limitations. No evidence that was not expected and documented in the warrant was permitted to be removed from the premises. All video tapes the police found had to be viewed in the house. Damage to the house had to be kept to a minimum; police could not tear down walls looking for the videotapes. The search of the house, including updated warrants, lasted 71 days and the only tape found by the police had a short segment depicting Homolka performing oral sex on Jane Doe.

On 5 May 1993, Walker was informed that the government was offering Homolka a 12-year sentence plea bargain that she had one week to accept. If she declined, the government would charge her with two counts of first degree murder, one count of second degree murder and other crimes. Walker accepted the offer and Homolka later wisely agreed to it.

Had she refused the offer, she would be sentence to 25 years in prison before she could apply for parole and it would be possible that she would never be released from prison.

On the 14th of May 1993, the plea agreement between Homolka and the Crown was finalized, and she began giving her induced statements to police investigators about Bernardo’s rape, torture and murder of the two victims killed in their home. She never said anything about her role in the sexual abuse of the two victims. Citing the need to protect Bernardo's right to a fair trial, a publication ban was imposed on Homolka's preliminary inquiry.

Keep in mind that the police didn’t know at that time that there was a hidden video tape in the home that showed that she also sexually abused the two victims before they were murdered.

Public access to the Internet effectively nullified the court's order as did proximity to the American border, since a publication ban by an Ontario Court cannot apply in New York, Michigan, or anywhere else outside of Ontario. That is how I learned of what had really happened to the two victims before the trial even began.

Bernardo's trial for the murders of French and Mahaffy took place in 1995, and included detailed testimony from Homolka The hidden video tape hadn’t been found during his trial.

During the trial, Bernardo claimed the deaths were accidental, and later claimed that his wife was the actual killer. On September 1, 1995, Bernardo was convicted of a number of offences, including the two first-degree murders and two aggravated sexual assaults, and sentenced to life in prison. However, life in prison for first degree murder means that the prisoner can apply for parole in 25 years. It doesn’t mean he will get it however. He was also   charged as a ‘Dangerous Offender’, making it unlikely that he will ever be released from prisoner. He is serving his sentence in the Bath Penitentiary which is a highly secure prison. He is in the protective inmates unit.

In return for a plea bargain (12 years in prison for manslaughter), Homolka testified against Bernardo in his murder trial.

This plea bargain received much public criticism from Canadians because Bernardo's first defence lawyer, Ken Murray for 17 months had withheld videotapes that Bernardo made. This was considered crucial evidence, and prosecutors said that they would have never agreed to the plea bargain if they had seen the tapes. Murray was later charged with obstruction of justice, of which he was acquitted, and he also faced a disciplinary hearing from the Law Society of Upper Canada.

 I appreciate the dilemma that the lawyer was in. His first duty is to his client. He cannot disclose what he has learned from his client to anyone without his client’s permission. Obviously, Bernardo wasn’t going to give his lawyer permission to give the tape to the prosecutor. If a client tells his lawyer about a crime he is about to commit, the lawyer must report it to the police. But the video tape was about two crimes that had already been committed. After the trial of Bernardo’s and that of Homolka, he was then free to turn the video tape over to the police; which he did.

 Homolka's plea bargain had been offered to her before the contents of the videotapes were available for review.  There was widespread belief that she had always known where the videotapes were hidden and  that she willfully concealed the Jane Doe incidents and, most importantly, her claims of being under Bernardo's control  that was a central tenet of her plea bargain were false. Most people believed that those claims were dubious anyway.   She obviously didn’t want the videotape shown as it would have shown that she played an important part in the sexual abuse of the two victims and if that happened, there would be no plea bargain offered to her and she would be facing murder charges.

After her 1995 testimony against Bernardo, when Homolka returned to the Kingston's Prison For Women, a mximum security prison her mother started to suffer annual breakdowns between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The collapses were severe enough that she was hospitalized, sometimes for months at a time.

Homolka was moved from Kingston in the summer of 1997 to the Joliette Institution, a medium security prison in Joliette, Quebec, 80 km (49.7 miles) northeast of Montreal, a facility called "Club Fed" by its critics. Beginning in 1995, female inmates in the women’s prison in Kingston were gradually transferred to other federal correctional institutions. On May 8, 2000, the last female inmate was transferred away from the woman’s prison.

 In the early 1970s, while I was conducting a seminar to senior prison officials in Kingston over a three-day period, I visited the Prison for Women along with other federal prisons in the Kingston area.  

As her release date of 4th July 2005 neared, rumors were rife that she would either relocate to Quebec or go to a country where her case was unknown. After serving her full 12 years in 2005, she was released from prison with the restrictions placed upon her such as having to report regularly to the police on her whereabouts and travel plans, not communicate with her former husband, Paul Bernardo among other restrictions.

She told Radio Canada that she’d be staying in Quebec since she found the media there less sensationalist than in other English speaking provinces. She lived in Montreal until 2007, upon which she moved to the Caribbean Island of Guadalupe so that her children could live a more normal life. She now goes by Leanne Bordelais, the name of the man she is married to who is the brother of her former lawyer.

The noted journalist, Paula Todd wrote a book about the two Canadian killers and his one hour session at Homolka’s home As soon as Todd’s book was published; it was met with shock and anxiety by the people in Guadeloupe and in her current neighborhood. Her husband’s family in Guadalupe wasn’t too pleased at all when they learned who she really was and what she had done.

She is currently free to go where she wants and do what she wants without reporting to the police. This has many people up in arms, but Judge Burton commented four months after she was released from prison, “The possibility that Ms. Teale (the name she was going under then) might reoffend one day cannot be completely eliminated, however, her development over the last 12 years demonstrates, on a balance of probabilities, that this is unlikely to occur. She does not represent a real and imminent danger to commit a personal injury offence.

No matter what she does, she will always be regarded as one of Canada's most horrific criminals and perhaps the most horrific of all female criminals.

It is a shame however that the families of her victims and society in general were deprived of justice in her case. She really did participate in assisting Bernardo in kidnapping the two young girls, torturing and sexually molesting the victims and standing by when Bernardo was  killing them and disposing of their bodies.

If the police had been more vigilant when searching their home, they would have discovered the hidden video tape that would have proved in court just how far that woman had gone to assist her then evil husband in his horrific treatment of their two victims before they were murdered. If that tape was shown in court before the plea bargain was offered to her, she would be spending the rest of her life in prison.

I really feel sorry for her three children. Imagine if you will what it will be like when they are grown adults, wondering if the people they associate with really know who her mother really was and what she had done to those unfortunate victims she and her evil husband had done to them. Her children are in my opinion, also victims of her mother and Paul Bernardo.  

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