Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Killer lies to parole board, loses freedom

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A convicted killer is back behind bars after getting caught lying to parole board officials about how he was spending his free time in the community.

Conrad Johnson, 35, of Winnipeg had his unescorted temporary absences revoked earlier this month, documents obtained Thursday by the Free Press show.

This marks the third time Johnson has blown his opportunity at release.

In the latest example, parole board officials say they received a tip Johnson was going around bragging to others about how he'd pulled the wool over their eyes.

Specifically, his absences allowed him to attend weekly Narcotics Anonymous meetings to help deal with outstanding addictions issues. Yet Johnson was skipping out -- a fact confirmed when federal officials did a surprise check-in last month, and he was nowhere to be found.

"You initially acted as if there were no concerns," the parole board wrote in this week's decision about Johnson's reaction when confronted. "Then you claimed you missed your bus and became disoriented."

The parole board members said they could no longer trust him, especially considering his less-than-stellar track record.

"You continue to have difficulties following the rules," they wrote.

Johnson was 15 when he gunned down 13-year-old Joseph "Beeper" Spence in 1995. Johnson and two co-accused mistakenly believed Spence was a member of a rival gang. The killing made national headlines and sparked calls for tougher penalties for young offenders and tougher laws for gangs.

Johnson pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced as an adult to life in prison with no parole eligibility for at least 10 years, which is the maximum sentence allowed by law. He reached that milestone in 2005.

He was first released on day parole in July 2006, but failed a drug test weeks later. He had what parole officials call "deteriorating" social behaviour, including throwing temper tantrums and lying.

However, Johnson was given several additional chances to succeed. Parole officials didn't revoke his release until February 2007 after several more failed drug tests and increasingly problematic behaviour.

While back behind bars, Johnson admitted his mistakes and blamed them on being given too much, too fast. The parole board agreed to give him a second shot at freedom in January 2008.

Johnson fled from a halfway house in Winnipeg in July 2009 and spent 15 months on the run. Officers caught up with Johnson in October 2010, finding him in a city hotel room with several high-ranking gang members and a large quantity of marijuana. Johnson was not charged for the drugs but did get slapped with being unlawfully at large.

His day parole was cancelled.

Johnson spent a couple of years in remand custody before being returned to federal custody in December 2012. He enrolled in several substance-abuse programs, demonstrated model behaviour and was given a third shot in October 2013 when he was granted unescorted temporary absences for up to 72 hours of freedom per month.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 22, 2014 A7

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