Sunday, Jul 16, 2006
Families of serial killer Clifford Olson's victims brace for parole hearing
MONTREAL (CP) - Family members of victims of serial killer Clifford Olson will make their way to a federal prison in Quebec this week to face Olson in what they hope is a futile bid for parole.
Among them will be Gary Rosenfeldt, whose stepson Daryn Johnsrude was Olson's third victim, along with his wife and daughter.
"My little girl was nine-years-old at the time her brother was murdered," Rosenfeldt said in a recent interview.
"To sit and watch her in tears talking about her brother. . . it's not fair. She should not have to go through this. She should have other things on her mind than trying to keep a crazed convicted killer in prison."
For others, it's too much to bear, said Rosenfeldt, who founded the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime after Daryn's death.
"(One father) just could not allow Olson to see his pain and to know the pain he inflicted on him for the last 25 years," Rosenfeldt said. "I can understand that.
"He enjoys the pain and suffering he inflicts on families."
Olson admitted in 1982 to the murders of 11 young people in British Columbia, eight boys and three girls ranging in age from nine to 18.
Now 66, he's served 25 years in prison since his 1981 arrest and will be eligible for parole as of Aug. 12.
On Tuesday, a three-member parole board panel will hear Olson's parole application at the federal prison in Ste-Anne-des-Plaines, north of Montreal.
It is expected the hearing will wrap up in a day.
Olson worked out a notorious cash-for-bodies deal with the Crown and RCMP that provided his family with a $100,000 trust in exchange for information about the deaths and the locations of bodies.
After he sent graphic letters detailing his crimes to some victims' families, Corrections Canada obtained a gag order stopping Olson from communicating with families or the media.
It took just 15 minutes of deliberations for the jury at his 1996 faint-hope hearing to reject the possibility of early release but public outrage over the hearing prompted lawmakers to amend the Criminal Code, stripping serial killers of the right to the 15-year review.
"The guy should be dead for what he's done," said Darryl Kettles, a retired RCMP officer who worked on the Olson case.
Forced to retire due to health problems and what he now recognizes as post-traumatic stress, Kettles said the case had devastating effects on everyone it touched.
"He is the devil himself," Kettles said of Olson.
"They were children. Murder scenes are bad enough but when it's children who are victims. . . it's pretty hard to live with."
Olson had a long criminal history prior to his arrest in the murders, mostly for fraud, petty thefts and break and enter.
He was jailed for the indecent assault of a four-year-old girl in Sydney, N.S., in 1978, emerging from prison in July 1980.
Four months later, his first victim, 12-year-old Christine Weller, disappeared.
"There is no treatment devised for such a personality," said Elliot Leyton, professor emeritus of anthropology at Memorial University of Newfoundland and author of Hunting Humans: The Rise of the Modern Multiple Murderer.
"There is no chance of being rehabilitated."
Even the remotest possibility of parole is frustrating for the public but there is no reason for alarm, Leyton said.
"No government would allow the release of this kind of vicious and barbaric criminal."
Under Canadian law, Olson is now entitled to a parole hearing every two years - something the Canadian Professional Police Association wants to change.
President Tony Cannavino said the public will face similar outrage when Paul Bernardo and others come up for parole.
"When we have a guy like Clifford Olson, after 25 years do we think that person should be entitled to get out of jail?" Cannavino said.
"No way. They should lose the jail key of Clifford Olson."
Federal Justice Minister Vic Toews said last week the Conservatives are looking at changes.
A spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said it's something the government will work on when the House resumes this fall.
"We've got to be tough on crime and give a stronger voice to victims," said Melissa Leclerc. "That's definitely something that we committed on. . . but I don't have any details or a time frame at this point."
Rosenfeldt would like the federal government abolish mandatory release, concurrent sentencing and the two-year parole review.
But if that doesn't happen, he'll be back in Ste-Anne-des-Plaines in two years.
"If it's every two years, I guess we'll be always there," he said.
At the very least we should have a "dangerous offender" clause that would keep him behind bars for the rest of his life.