Canadian female sex killer to leave prison
Monday, June 20, 2005; Posted: 8:49 a.m. EDT (12:49 GMT)
JOLIETTE, Quebec (Reuters) -- Karla Homolka was a pretty, bright young woman who helped drug, rape, torture and kill schoolgirls and even presented her own teen-age sister to her boyfriend as a gift.
Homolka, 35, has fascinated and horrified Canadians since committing her crimes more than a decade ago. Canada's most notorious female convict, she is due to be released from prison within weeks, and the country's anxiety and anger is again on the rise.
Homolka videotaped the murders with her psychopathic husband and will leave a prison in Joliette, Quebec, in early July after serving a 12-year sentence for manslaughter for her part in the death of three girls and the rape of another.
Homolka and her then-husband Paul Bernardo kidnapped, sexually assaulted, tortured and killed two teen-age girls in the early 1990s in southern Ontario.
She also drugged her 15-year-old sister so Bernardo could rape her in the basement of her family home after a Christmas dinner. The girl choked on her own vomit and died.
Homolka agreed to the plea-bargain sentence for manslaughter in return for testifying against Bernardo. He is serving a life sentence for murder and will likely never be released.
Public anger over her deal with prosecutors, which came amid allegations of police bungling and just before the now infamous videotapes of their crimes were recovered by police, means Homolka will know little peace when she gets out.
There have been death threats and bets on how long she'll live. One now-defunct Web site invited visitors to predict when she would die, proclaiming that "when the game is over, we all win."
The Ontario government is going to extraordinary lengths to keep track of her movements after she gets out of prison, and there is even a Hollywood movie, "Deadly," due to be released this year, despite the efforts of the victims' families to have it banned in Ontario.
'She's that rare murdering woman'
The case of Bernardo and Homolka -- a young, attractive, suburban couple who ran a house of horrors in the quiet Ontario town of St. Catharines -- stunned Canada in the early 1990s. Their acts made them the nation's most reviled criminals.
At their trials, evidence was presented that the pair tortured schoolgirls Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy for days before finally killing them, chopping up Mahaffy's body and encasing it in cement.
Homolka and Bernardo held their lavish wedding just weeks after one torture session. That same day Mahaffy's body parts, encased in concrete, were discovered in a nearby lake.
During the years she has been in prison, rare glimpses into her life behind bars have made front page headlines though little is heard of Bernardo. Articles about Homolka tend to focus on sexual issues: a lesbian lover, lewd acts with an inmate through a fence, a picture of a topless Homolka posing coyly on a picnic blanket.
Homolka appeared in public for the first time in a decade at a court hearing in June. The once perky blonde had been replaced by an angular-featured woman with darker hair, a grim expression and down-turned mouth.
"She's that rare murdering woman; there aren't that many," said Christie Blatchford, a columnist for the Globe and Mail newspaper. "There's a prurient element to it too because of the sex assaults on the three girls."
Ontario has won exceptionally rare restrictions on Homolka, citing fears she may offend again. Psychiatrists argued her communication with a man serving a life sentence for strangling his girlfriend to death shows she is still attracted to dangerous men.
Homolka plans to change her name and appearance and live in French-speaking Quebec, far from St. Catharines where she committed her crimes. Despite her attempt at anonymity, the court restrictions need to be renewed each year, ensuring an annual spotlight.
The restrictions, which include weekly reports to police, are unusual for a convict who has served a full prison term rather than leaving early on parole, and have drawn criticism in legal circles.
"She's not to be judged now. She was judged 12 years ago and the judgment is over, as it should be," said Peter Rosenthal, a lawyer and adjunct law professor at the University of Toronto. "She should be allowed to start a new life in some quiet way and this is going to prevent that, if they pay all that attention to her."
'Artificial, articulate, manipulative'
Some Canadians remain afraid of what Homolka might do. She is regarded as a master manipulator and even the fact that she obtained a psychology degree while in prison generates fear.
"I agree 150 percent with the restrictions because she is a danger to society and madly manipulative," said Francoise Watier, a Joliette resident who said she took part in the search for Kristen French in 1992 in southern Ontario.
"She can do it again. She even got a psychology degree while she was in there, now she can even manipulate the psychologists who are supposed to evaluate her."
A prison psychiatric assessment described her as "a very artificial, articulate, manipulative person."
At her 1993 trial, Homolka presented herself as a victim, the abused wife of a sociopath who had no choice but to help Bernardo in his schemes to kidnap young sex slaves.
"This is just a continuation of a big con," said Tim Danson, a lawyer for the victims' families. "Karla Homolka had read a book on battered wife syndrome before any of these doctors started to talk to her."
In another psychiatric report, Homolka said she now wants to meet a man with "moral values of marriage ... who loves his mother [and] shows a respectful attitude toward women" -- and loves pets.
But those dreams of a picture-perfect life may be next to impossible for someone so infamous.
The pretty suburban home where Homolka and Bernardo lived out their violent sexual fantasies has been torn down.