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Parole board holds keys to cells

Three convicted Manitoba killers deemed high-risk rejected for release

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They are three Manitoba men who share a few common links: All committed brutal, high-profile killings of women but are now eligible to return to the community after spending many years behind bars.

Documents obtained by the Free Press show one more similarity -- the three have recently had their bids for freedom rejected.

The National Parole Board decisions are especially interesting, given several other recent examples documented by the Free Press where notorious local killers were given the green light on an early jailhouse exit, triggering outrage from members of the victim's families and the general public. There is also plenty of ongoing discussion in Ottawa about changing federal parole provisions to make it more difficult for these types of offenders to get released, especially when they've done little to earn it.

At the very least, these three Manitoba cases show parole officials already have the power to keep high-risk, remorseless offenders locked up. And the cases will likely trigger even more debate about other decisions that have been made and whether the same principles are being applied equally to all.

 

DARRELL FONTAINE, 32

-- His crime: Killed 19-year-old Candace Henderson after deliberately driving his car into the path of a semi-trailer in an apparent suicide bid in April 1999 on a highway near Moosehorn, about 200 kilometres north of Winnipeg. Fontaine had slashed his wrists days earlier, believed he was HIV-positive and was angry that his girlfriend had just got an abortion. She pleaded to be let out of the speeding car just before her death.

-- His sentence: Convicted in 2004 of second-degree murder and given life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.

Fontaine has been eligible for day parole since 2011 but was denied in his first attempt at release earlier this year. The parole board cited ongoing concerns about substance abuse, including being caught using smuggled drugs while in custody, and concerns about suicidal thoughts and his dangerous behaviour behind bars, including attacking a guard with a mop.

"Your insight into your risk factors is at the beginning stages and requires more work," the board wrote.

 

JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN, 33

-- His crime: Strangled 71-year-old Gloria Burn and buried her body near Assiniboia Downs in November 2001. Chamberlain met Burn at the Grace General Hospital, where both were psychiatric patients. After they were discharged from the hospital, Burn reconnected with Chamberlain at the racetrack, where he worked in the stables. They quickly began living together.

-- His sentence: Convicted of second-degree murder and given life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years. The judge rejected his claim of mental illness and refused to find him not criminally responsible.

Chamberlain became eligible for day parole in 2008 and full parole in 2011. But his applications have been repeatedly rejected, most recently last year, on the grounds he remains a high-risk to reoffend and is now refusing to even admit he committed the murder.

"You claim you were wrongfully convicted for this offence," the parole board wrote. They also cited ongoing mental health concerns, a lack of treatment and no tangible release plan for the future.

"The board is concerned that you do not fully appreciate the factors which led you to commit this violent act," they concluded.

Chamberlain will remain behind bars indefinitely.

 

ANDRE LAHAIE, 41

-- His crime: Repeatedly assaulted and strangled his common-law wife, Sheryl Zechel, 40, in front of their 11-year-old daughter in their Lac du Bonnet home in November 2003. Zechel's death ended a stormy domestic relationship with Lahaie, who had been convicted on three previous occasions of assaulting her. When he killed her, he was free on bail, under the condition he have no contact with her.

-- His sentence: Pleaded guilty to manslaughter and given a 10-year sentence as part of a plea bargain struck with justice officials.

Lahaie reached his statutory-release date in August 2009 after serving two-thirds of his sentence. But in separate hearings in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, the parole board took the rare step of ordering that Lahaie remain in custody. They ruled public safety would be compromised if he were freed.

"Your pattern of abuse has continued with minimal pause and demonstrates a pronounced difficulty controlling your impulsivity and anger," the board wrote last year. They said Lahaie had refused to take much treatment, still had mental health issues, was refusing medication and showed no remorse for his violent actions.

"There are no supervision programs that would adequately offer protection to the public from the risk you might otherwise present," the board wrote.

Lahaie's full sentence is set to expire in May. Upon release, justice officials are expected to seek a Section 810 "peace bond" against him that will force him to comply with parole-like conditions, even though he will no longer be a sentenced prisoner.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Four whom panel deemed ready to get out of prison

Here are some recent examples of Manitoba killers who did get early release from prison despite ongoing risks cited by the National Parole Board.

 

BRUCE STEWNER, 47

-- His crime: Killed his 23-year-old wife, Kelly Lynn Stewner, by chasing her down Portage Avenue and repeatedly stabbing her in front of horrified witnesses in May 1994. She had a restraining order against him and bled to death while he hovered over her and taunted her.

-- His sentence: Convicted of second-degree murder and given life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years.

Stewner began receiving more than 300 temporary passes into the community in 2008 and was granted day parole last year despite not being eligible for full parole until May 2014. Parole officials said Stewner has shown considerable "insight" into his crime and has been working on issues including family violence and anger management and pursuing a "spiritual path" in life.

News of Stewner's return to the community outraged his victim's loved ones, who called him a manipulator and liar. As part of his day parole, Stewner must report nightly to a halfway house and follow numerous conditions, including abstaining from alcohol and following a mental-health treatment plan.

 

STEPHEN UNDERWOOD, 60

-- His crime: Killed his boss in front of several colleagues inside the Grace General Hospital in May 1998. Bill Larson, the manager of human resources, was stabbed to death.

-- His sentence: Admitted to manslaughter, was given life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 years.

Underwood was recently granted day parole after spending 14 years in custody. He must report each night to a halfway house. The parole board previously turned down Underwood's previous bids between 2008 and 2012 for release, but changed its decision last year when he began showing significant progress, including a much broader understanding of his crime and the damage he caused to Larson's family.

"It is evident that you are using program skills and community supports to assist in managing your risk," the parole board wrote.

 

LESLIE HENRY, 42

-- His crime: Killed his 27-year-old girlfriend, Jennifer Creighton, by stabbing her 19 times in their home in June 2002. Had a previous conviction of assaulting her and lashed out when she said she would leave him because of his ongoing drug addictions.

-- His sentence: Pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 14 years in prison as part of a plea bargain in which second-degree murder charges were dropped.

Henry was granted day parole in 2011 and full parole in 2012. The parole board praised him for his conduct behind bars, which included marrying a woman in 2009. The parole board did express concerns about Henry possibly being "manipulative" in some aspects of his rehabilitation, but said they were confident his wife would keep him out of trouble.

But the woman now claims Henry tricked her into a "sham" wedding because he convinced her he killed Creighton in self-defence. She is filing for divorce and believes Henry used her because getting married looked "good on paper" to the parole board.

 

DOMINIC URICHEN, 29

-- His crime: Helped plot the killing of 20-year-old Trevor "TJ" Wiebe in January 2003. The young man was stabbed in the throat, injected with a syringe, strangled and left to die in a remote, snow-covered field.

-- His sentence: Convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, obstruct justice and contempt of court and sentenced to 131/2 years in prison.

Urichen will be given statutory release later this week after serving two-thirds of his sentence. His freedom comes despite ongoing concerns from the paroled board about Urichen hearing "command hallucinations" to stab strangers. He has been deemed a high risk to violently reoffend and has little understanding of how to cope in society and stay out of trouble. The parole board has the ability to suspend statutory release and keep an offender behind bars until the expiry of the full sentence if they feel there is a grave risk to society. Wiebe's family have openly questioned why that hasn't been done in this case.

"If this doesn't meet the criteria of keeping someone in, I shudder to think what it does take," said Floyd Wiebe, TJ's dad.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 28, 2013 A6

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