London Free Press

November 6, 1999

One more chance for Homolka is too many

By Helen Connell -- London Free Press

One chance. Just one chance. That's what Dorothy Homolka says she wants for her daughter, Karla.

"I believe one chance and if anything happened, then throw away the key," Dorothy Homolka told a Toronto reporter.

Karla has launched a federal court challenge to force Canada's prison system to allow her escorted passes so she can meet her parents and family at a halfway house in Montreal. Karla and her mother feel she should be preparing to be reintegrated into society.

What Dorothy Homolka forgets is that her daughter already has had her chance. She has, in fact, had an abundance of chances to show she can think of someone besides herself and make responsible decisions when they count most.

She had a chance to say no when her fiance, Paul Bernardo, said he wanted Karla's younger sister, Tammy, for a Christmas present.

Instead of blowing the whistle on his plan, Karla became his accomplice, stealing drugs and serving them up in a lethal cocktail to Tammy on Christmas Eve. Karla then joined Paul in sexually assaulting the 15-year-old, until something went wrong with their plan and Tammy died, choking on her own vomit.

She had another chance to blow the whistle on Paul on June 15, 1991, when he went stalking for a fresh young girl. "I knew that it was a possibility he might kidnap someone, but not that it would be Leslie Mahaffy," Karla told the jury at Paul's murder trial, as if not knowing the girl's identity somehow excused her from calling police.

Later, Karla joined Paul in repeated sexual assaults on Leslie. She later recalled in court how, just prior to her death, the 14-year-old pleaded for her life saying, "I'll never tell. I'll never double-cross you . . . I want to see my family and my brother and my friends. Please."

Instead of trying to find a way to save her, Karla got a sleeping pill and a teddy bear for Leslie to cuddle as she waited to die.

Karla's next chance to stop the madness came the day when, after he had strangled Leslie, Paul lugged the teen's body to the basement until he could figure out how to dispose of it. The rest of the Homolka family came over to the house to celebrate Father's Day, yet Karla let them leave without giving so much as a hint of the horror that lay in the root cellar.

Instead, on April 16, she helped Paul kidnap 15-year-old Kristen French and spent the next three days helping him sexually torment this terrified girl.

Twice Homolka was alone in the house but she passed up both those chances for her and Kristen to escape.

On Easter Sunday, when Paul said he wanted to continue to keep Kristen as his little sex slave, his good wife reminded him that if they cancelled dinner at her parent's place, they wouldn't have an alibi should they ever be questioned about Kristen's disappearance.

"I didn't suggest to him that he kill her," she told police. "But I knew something had to happen on Sunday." Paul heeded his wife's caution and killed Kristen.

Karla finally did leave Paul on Jan. 5, 1993. Away from him now, it was a perfect chance to come clean. Instead, Karla decided to have some fun, later telling police, "I felt like I was 17 years old again and I locked everything I had with Paul away in a corner of my mind. I forgot about Tammy, I forgot about Leslie and Kristen. I forgot about everything. And I went out and had a great time."

And it seems Karla now wants another opportunity to get on with her life and forget all about Tammy, Kristen and Leslie. Fortunately, most Canadians are not willing to abandon their memories so easily.

Karla would have us believe she was devoid of choices -- that she had been so physically, sexually and psychologically abused that her only choice was to obey Paul's every whim.

But Kristen French knew differently. When Karla suggested to her once that it would be less painful if she willingly submitted to Paul's assaults, the 15-year-old replied, "some things are worth dying for." That's the kind of integrity which Karla is incapable of understanding.

Dorothy Homolka's pain is real when she says, "I know the Frenches and Mahaffys went through hell, but people don't think of the hell that our family went through as well . . . I lost a daughter."

In fact, she has lost two daughters to Paul -- first Tammy, then Karla.

Karla's mother is correct in pointing out there are solid reasons why our prison system is set up in such a way as to allow the gradual release of a prisoner back into the community.

But every now and then, a crime is committed that the public is so repulsed by that it defies the normal procedures for rehabilitation. Some acts are so beyond our capacity to even understand them the best we can label them is evil.

Karla fits into this rare group. Her 12-year sentence was quickly labeled "a deal with the devil" because, at the time the bargain was struck, the Crown attorney needed her testimony to convict Paul.

Dorothy Homolka asks us to give her daughter one more chance, and if anything happens, throw away the key. Sorry -- that's one chance most Canadians aren't willing to take.

Helen can be e-mailed at
Letters to the editor should be sent to

Copyright © 1999, Canoe Limited Partnership.