Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Forced to make a deal with the devil

Killer proves a cunning manipulator

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He is a master manipulator, a sociopath who craves attention and takes pleasure in the pain of others.

So you can imagine the disgust among senior Manitoba justice officials who took a long, hard look at the case against accused serial killer Shawn Lamb and realized one alarming fact.

Lamb, 54, held all the cards. They would be forced to play the game by his rules.

As we saw Thursday, the result was a so-called deal with the devil. Lamb cops to reduced charges and is able to apply for parole by his 63rd birthday. He's guaranteed freedom by 72.

A "light at the end of the tunnel" is how defence lawyer Martin Glazer described it.

Social media lit up with outrage. Families of the victims erupted in anger. Even those involved in the prosecution held their noses.

"We're not happy at all. But you have to look at the big picture," a veteran source connected to the case told the Free Press.

That big picture isn't pretty. Lamb, a man with more than 100 convictions on his record dating back to the 1970s, had a very good chance of being back on the streets in the next few months if the Crown didn't agree to his terms.

"There was a very real possibility of an acquittal," Queen's Bench Justice Rick Saull said in summarizing the difficult position facing the Crown.

No forensics, no witnesses: Only Lamb's lengthy, detailed confession which may have been illegally obtained by Winnipeg police.

That left the Crown with no choice but to cut their losses and salvage whatever they could. They would have to drop the murder charges, and the mandatory life sentence they carry. And they could no longer even think about a dangerous-offender application and the indefinite prison term that comes with it.

No doubt their uneasiness was magnified Thursday, when Lamb tried to hijack his own sentencing hearing. It was a pathetic, but not entirely surprising, performance by a man who does the "woe-is-me" act better than anyone.

Sit quietly as lawyers go over every grisly detail of your crimes, then jump up at the last minute and claim you want to withdraw your guilty pleas and set the matter down for trial.

Fortunately sanity prevailed and the hearing continued. But you could tell Lamb loved being in the position of power.

"You're a f --g monster, take some responsibility," screamed one of the victims' family members in court. He was promptly ushered out by sheriffs, clearly at his wit's end being forced to watch Lamb relish the spotlight.

I've seen this tired act play out many times over the past couple years, as Lamb routinely called me to chat about his case and hinted he had information about as many as five unsolved murders. He's routinely played the same cat-and-mouse game with homicide detectives.

Lamb also took great pleasure in calling my national Sunday-night radio show a few months ago so he could ask my guest, Manitoba provincial court Judge Ray Wyant, a question about the criminal justice system. It wasn't until he was on-air that we recognized the voice. Obviously an accused serial killer asking a sitting judge questions on live radio isn't an everyday scenario. But Lamb relished it.

Those Sunday-night calls from the Remand Centre and Headingley became a regular feature. Once, Lamb wanted to tell listeners how a Quebec filmmaker making videos of models pretending to be raped and murdered was "cool."

Another time he told me how he thought Col. Russell Williams, convicted of brutally murdering two Ontario women and raping several others, "looked good" in pictures tendered in court of him wearing the panties of his victims.

There was no reason for him to be making these outlandish statements short of the "look-at-me" attitude he clearly possesses.

Lamb demonstrated this again Thursday, as he made an impressive speech about how his tragic, troubled upbringing and years of chronic drug and alcohol addiction, which began at the tender age of 12, contributed to his criminal ways.

"I grew up damaged and lost," he said. "I turn into a monster at times. I think all addicts will relate to that."

It was the type of insight you rarely see from offenders, and typically not expressed as eloquently as Lamb did. And on the surface you may wish to applaud him for his candour.

Problem is, Lamb has pulled out this same spiel countless times. His comments Thursday were eerily similar to ones he's impressed many other judges with, convincing them this poor, lost soul is worthy of yet another chance at redemption and freedom.

"Once upon a time there was born a baby boy, a little Indian boy as sweet and fat-cheeked and gifted by the creator as any baby anywhere. He was born innocent, as innocent as a puppy," Lamb told a judge during a 2010 sentencing hearing. "Throughout all a dim light, glimmer of hope, a feeling of worth. Ask for help, unload the shame. I'm wanting and worthy of a better life,"

It would be less than two years later that Lamb, now a free man, would brutally kill Carolyn Sinclair and Lorna Blacksmith.

The master manipulator had struck again.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 15, 2013 A4

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