Family members of a Winnipeg murder victim say her killer pulled a fast one on federal parole officials by winning early release.
Bruce Douglas Stewner, 47, has been given more than 300 temporary passes into the community since 2008 and was granted day parole last month, court documents obtained by the Free Press show. He gained those privileges even though he's serving a life sentence and isn't eligible for full parole until May 2014.
News of Stewner's return to the community outraged loved ones of his victim, Kelly Lynn Stewner. The 23-year-old woman was chased down Portage Avenue by her husband and stabbed to death in front of horrified witnesses in May 1994. She had obtained a restraining order against him months earlier, and bled to death while he hovered over her and taunted her.
"It's ridiculous. He's a total manipulator," the victim's brother, Gord Peary, said Thursday. He plans to petition the parole board to allow him to speak at Stewner's next hearing and voice objections on behalf of the family. His sister, Deb Peary, was invited to attend last month but was unable to make it because of health issues, he said.
More than 200 people commented online on the Free Press story by Thursday afternoon, with virtually all condemning the decision.
"We're hoping maybe we can sway the public, especially when it comes time for his full parole hearing," the victim's niece, Amy Peary, said through tears.
Gord Peary said he was equally stunned to learn Stewner remarried in 2011 and his bride played a prominent role in convincing parole officials to allow him unescorted daytime leaves.
"I just couldn't believe it. You wonder what's wrong with some people's heads," he said. Peary vividly recalls Stewner glaring at him in court following his 1995 sentencing and making a gun gesture with his hands.
"You just look at the guy, he looks evil," he said. He recalls how Stewner got into a verbal confrontation with his own nephew as he was being led out of court following the trial, challenging the 16-year-old boy to fight him and calling him a "little punk."
The parole board has expressed concerns about Stewner's ability to maintain a normal, healthy relationship. As a result, his parole-supervision team has vowed to closely monitor his love life.
"You have a history of failed intimate relationships with women that often featured spousal violence," the parole board wrote in its 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."
Peary said Thursday he believes Stewner has tricked the woman, and others, into believing he's a changed man.
"I know his demeanour. He's a good liar. He's very convincing," he said.
As part of his day parole, 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 said 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.