Globe and Mail

Outcry leaves Homolka feeling 'sad'

INGRID PERITZ AND ERIN ANDERSSEN
The Globe and Mail
Thursday, November 4, 1999

Montreal, Ottawa -- INGRID PERITZ in Montreal, ERIN ANDERSSEN in Ottawa

With the families of her victims accusing her of manipulating Canada's corrections system, Karla Homolka sat in a Quebec jail yesterday feeling sorry that her bid for freedom became public and sparked fresh rage.

Ms. Homolka has turned to the courts in an effort to be transferred to a Montreal halfway house to serve part of her prison sentence in the deaths of three teenage girls. In an apparent attempt to avoid publicity, she filed the court documents under her lesser-known name, Karla-Leanne Teale.

But as news of her lawsuit exploded into public view, Ms. Homolka was left deeply disappointed.

"She was looking sad," said Nathalie Duhamel, head of the Quebec branch of the Elizabeth Fry Society (a group that helps female prisoners), after seeing Ms. Homolka at the prison yesterday. "Her feeling was, 'Here we go again.'

"She's very aware of the sensitivity of the public toward her. She knew the hype would start again."

In federal court documents, Ms. Homolka, 29, alleges the warden at Joliette Institution violated her constitutional rights by refusing her late-August request for a six-month escorted temporary absence.
Among other things, Ms. Homolka says that the warden refused to provide written reasons for the decision, failed to "take into account" her own written arguments for her release, and instead relied "solely" on the negative recommendation from the prison's team of psychiatrists charged with monitoring Ms. Homoloka's progress.

She wants a judge to quash the warden's decision and make a new assessment of her request. Yesterday, the courts moved to seal most of the documents.

Ms. Homolka wants to obtain passes to the Maison Thérèse Casgrain, a stately former convent in an upscale neighbourhood of Montreal, that currently houses 25 woman offenders.

Yesterday, as news about her request spread, neighbours of the halfway house registered their opposition. The halfway house is in a leafy neighbourhood bordering the tony enclave of Westmount.

"I don't want her in my neighbourhood," said Céline Wood, a mother of school-age children who was walking her dog near the halfway house. Nearby, several children were heading home in their private-school uniforms.

"I'm skeptical about how much she's been rehabilitated. She shouldn't be in a neighbourhood with so many children."

A Toronto lawyer representing the families of her victims accused Ms. Homolka of trying to sneak out of prison by manipulating the system.

Tim Danson pointed out yesterday that Ms. Homolka has been eligible for full parole since July of 1997, but never applied. To get full parole, she would have had to appear before the National Parole Board, a process that allows victims' families to make statements. Instead, he said, she has chosen to challenge the discretionary power of the warden -- an unprecedented move.

"We have rules in this country. She's trying to bypass that process. By doing this, she is avoiding scrutiny of her own progress. It is a clear manipulation of the system."

Mr. Danson said this move by Ms. Homolka is further proof that she feels little remorse for her crimes. "It exposes Karla for who she is," he said. "She doesn't want to play by the rules."

Mr. Danson said the families are in shock, especially since they had expected to be informed of any new developments in Ms. Homolka's status. Mr. Danson said he can not even get the court documents because they were sealed late yesterday afternoon.

But Ms. Duhamel said Ms. Homolka has been in therapy and deserves a chance to move beyond her prison walls. According to correctional officers, she does not present a public-security risk, Ms. Duhamel said.

Ms. Homolka felt she had no recourse but to turn to the courts in her bid to obtain freedom, Ms. Duhamel said. She has indicated her desire to leave Joliette on temporary passes ever since she arrived.

She also eager to see her parents outside of jail. They currently visit their daughter at the federal penitentiary, about 80 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

Ms. Homolka has been at Joliette since 1997, and her transfer into the largely French-speaking town went mostly unnoticed. Before Joliette, she had been serving time at the Kingston Penitentiary, where she was sent in 1993 for her part in the rapes and killings of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, and her part in the death of her sister, Tammy.

The Joliette prison presents a sharp contrast to the grim institution in Kingston. In Quebec, she shares a two-storey cottage with eight other women, cooks for herself and selects her own groceries.

Her unit is nestled in groves of trees. With no uniformed guards and no watch towers, it could pass for a low-budget family holiday camp -- were it not for the three-metre-high fence topped with razor wire.

Ms. Homolka has been popular with her fellow inmates, and prison warden Marie-André Cyrenne said last year that she began to fit in a week after her arrival.

But the warden rejected Ms. Homolka's request in August, saying she was not ready for temporary passes, Ms. Duhamel said.

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