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Wednesday, November 03, 1999

Homolka's request is both shocking and unsurprising
History points to a criminal without a conscience
Christie Blatchford
National Post

It has been long enough now that I can't remember if the public and those of us in the press who were covering the trial of Paul Bernardo ever actually saw the videotape of Bernardo and Karla Homolka attacking her baby sister, Tammy.

I believe we did, that it was not one of the notorious banned tapes that we could only hear, not watch. Whatever, whether through actual memory or vivid word picture, it is seared in my head, more vivid than yesterday.

Tammy Homolka was then just shy of her 16th birthday, a beautiful, fair, long-limbed teen. It was two days before Christmas, 1990, and the Homolka household in St. Catharines was in a party mood: The family was having special drinks.

Tammy's was very special. Bernardo and her oldest sister had doctored hers with a drug called Halcion.

Pretty soon, everyone went to bed, but for the by now-sleepy Tammy, Homolka and Bernardo.

The pair didn't waste any time: They got out a cloth and drenched it in Halothane, a powerful liquid anaesthetic Homolka had stolen from the veterinarian's office where she worked. They put the cloth over Tammy's mouth.

Bernardo began attacking Tammy. He raped her, anally and vaginally, while Homolka ran the videocamera; then, as became their habit, they switched places. Homolka, uttering occasional whispered protests, proceeded to suck on Tammy's breasts, perform oral sex on her, then, while Bernardo urged her on, stuck her finger into her little sister's vagina.

"Inside. Deep. Deep," grunted Bernardo.

"I did," breathed Homolka.

And she did.

Just as she had handed Tammy over to Bernardo, then a man who was just her boyfriend, because, well, because he had asked, because he wanted to have sex with Tammy; just as she shortly after dressed in Tammy's clothes and pretended to be her to juice up the thrill for Bernardo, so did she do this.

Tammy Homolka died; the drug made her vomit, and she died.

In the sale of the century that was Karla Homolka's eventual plea bargain, Tammy's death was tossed in as a kind of aside, an extra. Homolka admitted her roles in the murders of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy and her "criminal responsibility" for her part in Tammy's death.

She was sentenced to 12 years.

It is that she is serving now.

The news that she is now claiming her constitutional rights have been violated because she has been denied the opportunity to be transferred to a halfway house in Montreal, is at once shocking and entirely unsurprising: In the unremittingly bleak and featureless prairie that is her mind, she has always been a special little girl, and so, apparently, there does she remain.

Excerpts from the five handwritten pages (in her telltale Karly curlicues no doubt; I wonder if she still puts hearts where Os should be, and still uses cartoon paper?) show that she has gained not a whit from her supposed rehabilitation in prison.

She has done what clever inmates always do in the Canadian system -- take advantage of all the sham programs (anger management; self-esteem) and gain a university degree and then argue that this opportunism is tantamount to salvation.

I covered Homolka's brief plea in St. Catharines, and later, the summer-long trial of her husband, Bernardo, where she was the chief witness against him. The psychiatrists labelled her variously a battered woman and the "compliant victim of a sexual sadist." She was so young; she was a naif: All these things her defenders said, almost invariably male, almost all of them adding, "She would have been all right if only she'd met the right guy."

I remember her licking her lips for the camera, during one of the rapes. I remember how once, this while Leslie was being attacked in another part of the house, Homolka sat upstairs in her bedroom, reading, and then drifted off to sleep. It was not that her conscience was clear; it was that she never had one.

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