A convicted murderer whose conduct has raised several red flags in recent years has been granted unsupervised "personal development" excursions into the community designed to bolster his chances of getting parole.
Documents obtained by the Free Press show Robert Dmytruk learned last week he will receive 75 days worth of unescorted temporary absences (UTAs) from Rockwood Institution, where he is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder and attempted murder of two innocent bystanders in 1996.
"The board is satisfied that you are a work in progress and a gradual, well-structured and monitored release plan is important for your reintegration," the parole decision reads.
Dmytruk, 36, has been eligible to apply for parole since he reached the 15-year mark of his sentence in July 2011.
But he's been the subject of several critical reports about the continued risk he may pose to the public, along with his institutional behaviour and the facts of his crime, which made national headlines for its random brutality.
Dmytruk shot Eric Vargas to death and wounded his girlfriend, Quyen-Vn Raceles, in the parking lot of Chalmers Community Centre. On the night of the killing, Dmytruk and a co-accused arrived at the club expecting to fight members of a rival gang. When nobody showed up, they turned their weapons on Vargas, 20, and Raceles, 19, who were sitting in a vehicle talking.
Vargas was an honours student studying economics at the University of Manitoba and vice-president of the Filipino Students Association. Raceles was struck by four bullets that hit her in the shoulder, hip and foot. A quiet, well-liked and talented woman known for her singing, Raceles managed to drive about a block from the shooting before crashing the car into a light standard.
"Your female victim continues to suffer from poor sleep, disturbing dreams and has difficulty leaving her home at night out of fear," the parole board wrote in its decision last week, citing an impact statement Raceles filed. "It is also reported that she continues to experience intense grief and loneliness at the loss of her boyfriend."
Dmytruk has previously stepped out of prison and back into the community accompanied by plenty of controversy.
He began receiving escorted temporary absences (ETAs) in 2000, allowing him to visit malls, the public library, a city gym and get a Slurpee from 7-Eleven. The passes allowed him to leave prison for up to eight hours at a time, provided he was with an approved supervisor.
That drew the ire of many, including Manitoba Tory MP Shelly Glover, who called it "ridiculous" that a killer can taste freedom as much as three years before even being eligible for parole.
In 2010, the parole board denied Dmytruk's bid for UTAs. The board said that would pose an "undue risk to society" and cited Dmytruk's previous gang involvement and track record behind bars, which includes 11 "institutional incidents" in the few years he's been at the Rockwood minimum-security facility just north of Winnipeg.
However, in last week's decision, the parole board noted significant changes. They say Dmytruk has now renounced his gang status, become involved in a stable romantic relationship, been drug-free since 2010 and reduced his overall risk to "low and manageable."
Dmytruk has also shown insight into his crime, including a detailed account of why he killed Vargas.
"You shared that you were part of a gang and immature. You committed criminal activity and violent acts in order to be accepted by your peers," the parole board wrote.
The UTAs granted to Dmytruk will be reviewed later this year and could pave the way for an application for full parole.
The parole board says temporary absences, escorted and unescorted, are an "integral" part of an offender's rehabilitation and the success rate is consistently over 99 per cent.
There are no restrictions on when prisoners serving life sentences can apply for temporary absences, but they must have a "structured and specific" plan approved in advance.