Toronto Star

November 3, 1999

Unfettered by guilt, she's ready for checkout

Not for Karla the burden of lives lost or forever damaged . . . any lingering responsibility

by Rosie DiManno
Toronto Star

SHE KEPT the name of the beast.

Née Karla Homolka. Formerly Mrs. Paul Bernardo. Now Ms Karla Leanne Teale.

The woman sentenced to 12 years for her role in the murder of two teenage girls - not to mention the rape of her own baby sister, who then choked to death on her own vomit - wants to create a new life for herself in Montreal.

A life far removed from infamy and disgrace and the husband she shed after appearing as the main witness at his murder trial.

Yet Karly Curls - a favourite Paul endearment - has not distanced herself so far from murderer ex-hubby that she dropped the surname Teale. That was the new name - taken from the movie Criminal Law, about a serial killer - legally adopted by Bernardo on Feb. 13, 1993, four days before his arrest for the Scarborough rapes.

It's Karla Leanne Teale who petitioned the warden at the Joliette Institution for escorted day passes, ostensibly to designed to ease her gradually from prison to freedom before her mandatory release date of July, 2001.

Karla Leanne Teale: Does that speak to the sentiments that might still exist in Karla's treacherous heart?

At Bernardo's trial four years ago, during her month-long appearance on the witness stand - dressed demurely in skirts that fell below her knees and schoolgirl blouses with little Peter Pan collars - Karla presented herself as contrite, ashamed, abused, coerced into acts of unspeakable depravity out of fear for her own life.

She was a victim too, Karla said.

But she's over that now. She's rediscovered her self-esteem. She's recovered from the ``misplaced guilt'' she suffered whilst committing horrific misdeeds on Kristen French . . . on Leslie Mahaffy . . . on Tammy Homolka . . . on the teenage girl, known as Jane Doe during the court proceedings, who got away, with no memory of her experience in the Bernardo bedroom.

Misplaced guilt.

Not for Karla the burden of lives lost or forever damaged.

Not for Karla any lingering remorse or responsibility.

Not for Karla a future full of self-recrimination.

And not once, in the hand-written application to the warden - the ``i's'' dotted with tiny circles - does Karla say that she is sorry.

It's all about her, always about her.

She's assertive now. She sees things more clearly. She's read books about abusive relationships. She's participated in prison courses on empowerment and emotional trauma. She's in touch with herself - and not in the way that was depicted on those gruesome videotapes, when Karla and Paul violated their victims, repeatedly, deliriously, with lip-smacking, finger-licking pleasure.

``I completed my first program, Self-Esteem, in June, 1995,'' Karla writes in the application turned down by the Joliette warden, a decision which Homolka has now appealed in a request for judicial review.

``In this program, I learned the importance of standing up for myself. Assertiveness was stressed. This was the program in which I also learned to start to trust others again.''

As trusting, maybe, as 15-year-old Kristen, leaning into the Bernardos' car that rainy afternoon when Karla, the procurer of girls for Paul, asked the teenager for directions; as Paul approached from the rear and shoved Kristen into the vehicle, then the couple speeding off for their house of horrors with their newest sex-slave.

``I was also taught that suppressing my anger is not a good thing to do and learned positive ways to express anger.''

The same anger, do you think, that Kristen finally voiced in her contemptuous and courageous indictment of the Bernardos - the close-to-last words of a girl who was resigned to her fate, who realized that she was doomed despite doing all that she was told and acting for that damn video camera and repeating that ``You're the King'' dialogue Paul had forced upon her.

That kind of anger?

``I am completely in touch with my feelings. My self-esteem is now quite high and I am fairly easily able to deal with confrontation. I think my biggest gain from this program is my dramatic increase in assertiveness.''

Clever girl. Wicked girl.

She has learned well how to wear the mantle of the battered spouse - a characterization originally promoted by the crown attorney's office, when prosecutors needed to rehabilitate Karla in order to make her a credible main witness against Bernardo. This, before and after the ``deal with the devil,'' whereby Homolka pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received her sweetheart 12-year sentence.

Poor, pitiful, pathetic Karla.

The killer is not alone in this sympathetic view of herself - far from it, it seems.

The letters, oh the letters!, of support; from strangers and the empathetic contingent, and those wishing her a fine future, a happy birthday, a happy Christmas, a good career, someone to love, someone to be loved by. Letters signed with happy faces and pictures of dogs and requests for photographs and invitations to please write back, I wanna-be-your-pen-pal.

Two jurors even - from the panel of 12 that convicted Bernardo for first-degree murder - were moved by Karla's performance on the stand. Moved to the extent that they wrote letters of poignancy to Karla's parents, letters now filed with the court on behalf of Karla's petition.

Juror No. 7, the pilot - the one several female reporters in that courtroom were kind of sweet on themselves, because he looked so furious when he viewed the tapes that the public could only hear. I remember how he slapped a transcript from the video against his thigh and almost got up from his seat, as if he wanted to jump across the railing and strangle Bernardo himself.

He tells the Homolka family: ``I personally believe (Karla) was manipulated, controlled and battered. I sense she has the strength to survive.''

Juror No. 10, the one I, while covering the trial, always worried would be the weak link: ``. . . I would like you to know that vengence (sic) has no place in a humane society. I do not believe (Karla) is a threat to society. It is to Karla's credit that she is pursuing a university degree and learning all she can to try and understand her own role in her relationship with Paul.''

I am stunned, dismayed, enraged.

But mostly, now, I am so bloody grateful that Karla Homolka never put her own fate into the hands of a jury.

The bitch might have walked.

Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. E-mail:

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