Toronto Star

November 9, 1999

Bedfellows in pathetic crime may be so in prison

By Rosie Dimanno
Toronto Star

ROSE CECE and Mary Barbara Ann Taylor are self-admitted killers and will thus, undoubtedly, spend a substantial term behind bars in a federal penitentiary.

They may be permitted to serve their time at the same institution.

And, as lesbian lovers with an established relationship, they may even be entitled to enjoy conjugal visits during the length of their incarceration.

Those are all matters to be determined by professionals who will conduct an assessment of the two women, who admit they killed Detective Constable William Hancox on Aug. 4, 1998 - Cece actually plunging the knife into the unsuspecting officer's chest as he sat in his vehicle during a stake-out; Taylor the one who allegedly urged her paramour on, with a twisted challenge: ``If you loved me, you'd do it.''

Love kills.

And there's the final, spiteful irony: It was hospital policy that prevented these two women - deeply and destructively attached to each other - from being admitted to the same psychiatric ward mere hours before Hancox was slain. In a huff, refusing to be separated, Cece and Taylor left.

Suicidal and drug-addled, the women came this close to the psychiatric intervention which - while unlikely to have changed the quality of their miserable lives, not immediately at least - would certainly have prevented the murder that night of a young cop, with a wife and little girl at home, and a son almost ready to be born.

Psychiatric institutions won't admit to the ward patients who are intimately involved with one another, not even members of the same family, and this for obvious reasons - because the nature of mental illness is so closely entwined with personal relationships.

Yet Corrections Canada makes no such distinction. Indeed, anti-discrimination laws prevent penal institutions from treating inmates such as Cece and Taylor - lesbian lovers - any differently than others in the system.

``Of course, they would not be permitted to have sexual relations in prison,'' Corrections Canada spokesman Jacques Bellanger told the Star yesterday. ``But it's long established that we cannot discriminate against same-sex couples who are allowed private family (conjugal) visits.''

Nor could the administrators prevent the women from taking such conjugal visits together, unless the assessment staff determines that there should not be intimate contact, or that they should not be sent to the same penitentiary to serve their sentences.

There have already been cases, says Bellanger, where inmates serving sentences in separate prisons have been permitted conjugal visits. Bellanger was speaking here about heterosexual couples, where both the man and woman are doing time. He said he could not recall same-sex conjugal visits where both participants were inmates, but that doesn't mean it hasn't occurred.

The old and nearly obsolete Kingston Prison For Women is the only penitentiary that provides maximum security for females. Less than 20 women remain incarcerated there, while a new maximum security annex is being built. The other federal penitentiaries for women are in Truro, N.S.; Edmonton; Grand Valley in Kitchener; Joliette prison in Quebec (where Karla Homolka resides); and an institution specifically for native women in Maple Creek, Sask.

Corrections Canada policy is to incarcerate women as close as possible to their families, to facilitate family visits and emotional support.

The intimate nature of the relationship between Cece, 41, and Taylor, 31, is the subtext to the crime, and one more compelling feature of the women who now await their fate: Will it be a conviction for second-degree murder or manslaughter, for one or for both, that the jury will return? That jury spent much of yesterday being carefully charged by the judge.

Before their trial began, the women had attempted to plead guilty to manslaughter, but that proposal was rebuffed by Crown Attorney John McMahon. It has been, throughout this 11-day trial, McMahon's clear intention to present the co-accused as fully cognizant of their actions on the night of Aug. 4, their judgment unimpaired by alcohol or drugs; that they had a plan they carried out with reasoned intent, and that they are therefore guilty of second-degree murder rather than manslaughter or some lesser offence.

There was an undeniable intimacy between the co-accused as they sat in the docket during the trial, with Taylor the more visibly anxious of the two, constantly jiggling her foot and rocking, a bundle of twitches and nerves. It was Cece who seemed to provide the emotional stability, putting her arm around her companion during the most difficult testimony - from members of Taylor's wildly dysfunctional family, most especially a mother who allegedly never wanted this child, Mary, who she claimed was the result of a rape.

The power dynamics are intriguing, most especially since it was the ostensibly pliant, malleable Cece who killed to prove her love for Taylor. Yet Cece was the one who had a far more stable family background, who held down jobs, who has been a lesbian since her teens and maintained serious relationships throughout her life, who only became a drug user out of an urge to share her lover's preoccupation.

How can it be that this otherwise more or less sensible woman, a onetime long-distance truck driver, could so easily submit to Taylor's directive to kill? That strikes me as more amoral, lacking in conscience, sociopathic, than Taylor's behaviour. Taylor, the prostitute put on the street by one of the countless bad men with whom she's been involved over her life, who'd never before had a lesbian lover, is a chronic loser.

Some babies are born with cowls covering their heads, and thus believed to be in possession of supernatural powers. But Taylor, a rapist's spawn, must have been born with the mark of Cain on her forehead. Lacking the intelligence or wherewithal to overcome her circumstances, she was condemned from the start. Sadder still, she appears to have perpetuated the futility of her family's existence by having children of her own - only one of whom she still sees.

This trial has not been a triumph for justice. Perhaps the family of the slain officer will take from it a sense of justifiable punishment - they are entitled to their rage and, I suspect, their everlasting incomprehension. But Officer William Hancox is still irretrievably gone.

Cece and Taylor are, they claim, in love. I am not sure of that. At the very least, one loves far more than the other.

Cece and Taylor are, they insist, terribly sorry for what they did. I'm sure they are. But that doesn't count for much at the moment.

It was a horrible crime. It's been a distressing trial. Yet the pathetic circumstances of these two women does not exculpate them, nor does their allegedly suicidal state of mind on that Aug. 4 evening absolve them.

If I were on that jury, I'd vote for second-degree murder.



Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. E-mail: dimanno@hotstar.net

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