A man who violated a restraining order, chased his wife down a busy street and stabbed her to death in front of horrified witnesses is out of prison -- newly remarried and the recipient of early release that, federal officials admit, comes with risk to the public.
Bruce Douglas Stewner, 47, was granted day parole late last month, according to documents obtained by the Free Press on Wednesday. He was sentenced in February 1995 to life in prison with no chance of full parole for at least 20 years after a jury convicted him of second-degree murder for the May 1994 killing of Kelly Lynn Stewner.
The 23-year-old woman was stabbed numerous times on Portage Avenue after trying to run through traffic to flee her enraged spouse. "I told you, Kelly. I told you this would happen. You got what you deserved," Stewner told his dying wife while standing over her body.
Parole board documents tell quite a tale of Stewner's 181/2 years behind bars, including the fact he met a woman while incarcerated and married her in April 2011. There are no details in the decision on how a man serving a life sentence was able to meet a woman, fall in love and marry her. But what is clear is the new bride is a big reason he's tasting freedom. She went to bat for Stewner at his hearing last month, telling the board she believes he's a changed man.
"She says you have proactively addressed issues and notes that you have improved your ability to deal with conflict. She noted that accountability is important to you," the documents state.
Still, there are ongoing concerns about his ability to maintain a normal, healthy relationship with her, especially while in the community. As a result, his parole-supervision team has vowed to closely monitor his current love life.
"You have a history of failed intimate relationships with women that often featured spousal violence," the parole board wrote in their decision, citing a 2010 psychological report. "There have been suggestions by (prison) staff that you may still need to control and dominate women. Your risk to reoffend violently was assessed as moderate and your risk to reoffend in the context of an intimate relationship was assessed as high."
However, those risks haven't stopped the parole board from apparently granting Stewner "more than 300" escorted temporary absences from prison since February 2008, the parole board writes. There have been no reported incidents or concerns with those brief trips into the community.
Now, the board has granted Stewner much greater freedom through day parole, which will allow him to spend considerable time in the community without supervision.
Stewner will still have to report nightly to a halfway house and follow numerous conditions including abstaining from alcohol and following a mental-health treatment plan.
Officials cite the fact Stewner has shown considerable "insight" into his crime, while working on issues including family violence and anger management and pursuing a "spiritual path" in life.
"When asked why you were capable of such extreme violence, you indicated that at the time you were completely self-centred, you were disconnected from your feelings... and that you were ill-equipped to deal with the anger and hatred you felt towards her," the parole board writes.
At Stewner's trial, he tried to convince jurors he was provoked into murdering his spouse -- and should be convicted of just manslaughter -- because she had bragged about having an affair with his brother.
Stewner is eligible to apply for full parole in May 2014, which is when he'll have served 20 years.
Excerpt from statement read by Deb Peary, Kelly Stewner's sister, at the time of Bruce Stewner's conviction and sentencing.
"The eyewitnesses that were at the scene are victims as well. What was inflicted upon them, to be forced to watch in broad daylight, is, to us, unforgiveable. Just like Kelly, society did not have a choice."
Excerpt from statement by Alice Cardinal, Kelly Stewner's mother, at the time of Bruce Stewner's conviction and sentencing.
"I want capital punishment where a person is found unquestionably guilty of first-degree or second-degree murder."
Excerpt from comments made by Justice James Smith at the time of Bruce Stewner's conviction and sentencing.
"This was one of the most vicious, brutal, violent multiple stabbings, committed in broad daylight, chasing this woman from her car in front of people with a prohibited butterfly knife with an 8.5-centimetre blade which at one point stabbed into her eight centimetres. The deceased had her hands over her head and one of the stabs went through her hand into her head and the tip broke off in her head."
Excerpt from letter written by Kelly Stewner, to her husband, a week before he killed her. It was never sent.
"Your moods I could probably have dealt with, the name calling, the putdowns... but you've pushed me to the limit and I know that I can't live like this anymore. You are a very sick man. I've given you love, trust, companionship, understanding, money, love and more love. I gave myself to you totally and completely, you know that, but you still took all you could and now you've crushed it."