Closer to Free: Teen Killer Gains New Freedoms

Canada’s youngest multiple killer is one step closer to freedom, today, as it has been reported that on Monday a judge changed her custody conditions from “closed” to “open.” This new status means that the teen, convicted for her role in helping her much older boyfriend brutally kill her entire family in their Medicine Hat, Alberta, home, can now participate in escorted trips off jail property.

I wonder how often her little brother is getting out on escorted walks from his new home, deep in cemetery soil.

The killing of both parents and her little brother on April 23rd, 2006, by the then 16 year-old girl and her 23 year-old lover shook the community for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the brutality of the killings and the fact that the young girl participated. The girl later admitted to having dealt the killing blows to her younger brother, while her father and mother were killed by her boyfriend.

Sure, she showed remorse at the trial. She cried when appropriate, snivelled where most effective. She was still found guilty, albeit sentenced to be remanded into the custody of a psychiatric hospital to be “helped” and reformed. Her boyfriend wasn’t so lucky, probably due in large part to his age. I mean, if you’re under 18 and you commit a crime, it’s automatically seen as less a sign of deviance and more a symptom of some defect that can be nurtured and counselled out.

Let me ask you, does the age of the killer make the victim any less dead?

Why do we have such an enormous blind-spot for children? Humanity seems prone to regarding the actions of children as somehow less governed by the rules of responsibility and propriety that rule our adult actions. Youth is the excuse for actions that we, as adults, could never get away with. After all, a child doesn’t really “understand” what they are doing, is less likely to act from an emotionally developed and mature perspective, less mature in their decision making faculties.

What a complete load of bullshit.

Kids barely in their teens are smoking, drinking, having illicit sex that makes the average adult movie look like a Disney production, using drugs and committing a whole host of crimes against one another and the public at large. A 15 year-old girl was gang raped by up to 10 other teenage students in the US just a while ago. The girl had been walking to meet her father for a ride home from her homecoming dance when she was lured into the group with alcohol. After she was sufficiently drunk, they beat and raped her, including raping her with “a foreign object.” Two of the teens were arrested after having been overheard bragging about the event.

Young teens participate in parties where coloured bracelets or other identifying jewellery advertise to party-goers just what kind of sexual activity they are willing, or interested in, performing.

I remember, more than ten years ago, sitting at a doughnut shop drinking coffee while a trio of kids, probably no older than 12 years-old, loudly argued and joked before going outside for a cigarette.

Yup, these are young and impressionable children simply acting irresponsibly because they are not emotionally or cognitively prepared to deal with their peers or their environment.

The Medicine Hat girl will be in supervised, therapeutic care for an additional two years, at which point her sentence will be carried out for an additional four years in a group home. She’ll be 22 years-old when she’s finally set free, having been incarcerated, if you don’t mind the inaccuracy of the term, for no more than six years. Six years of, admittedly difficult, therapy and this girl will be on the streets again, having participated in the brutal killing of her mother, her father, and her younger brother. Essentially, the taking of the remaining years of each of their lives will have cost her two years, and she’ll be free to carry on with the rest of hers at an age where many of her peers are perhaps in university or starting careers.

Something here doesn’t add up.

It’s is absolutely apparent that young people do not have the benefit of the wisdom gained from life experience with which they can weigh decisions and determine proper actions. I’m not going to argue that, in the least. What I am arguing here is the counter-point to the assertion that children cannot be held to the same degree of blame as adults for violent, sexual, or violently sexual crimes because they aren’t mature enough to understand right and wrong to the necessary degree. Judging a child by the same criteria as an adult is deemed “too harsh,” and sentencing them to the same penalties as adults is considered excessive as a result.

Again, I ask, does the age of the criminal at all change the fact that the victim is dead?

Don’t give me some crap about how it’s a decision of whether one life or two should be ruined. Frankly, the second you pick up a knife and insert it into another human being, you’ve chosen to ruin your life for yourself; nobody else is responsible for your actions, it really is all up to you. And, don’t give me some crap about how “they’re too young to understand how wrong it is, or the consequences.” Kids are taught from an early age that to bite and kick is wrong because hurting other people is wrong. I’m pretty sure the same logic can be transported from a bite or a kick to other actions, like shooting, stabbing or beating with a club. And, if the consequences are not well enough understood, it’s only because we’re not instilling enough fear of the consequences into people at an early age.

It’s a dangerous game to play, “rehabilitating” and releasing a youth offender after a brief incarceration. Maybe the individual will turn out to be a model citizen after learning their lesson, or maybe they’ll go on to commit other crimes against other victims. Without debating whether people are capable of change, it can be argued that killing or raping another person signifies the crossing of a line that you don’t cross back over; once you prove you are willing to act on what we are all capable of, you show that the leash holding you back from doing it again isn’t so very tight.

And, beyond rehabilitation, there has to be a sense of retribution, as well. I know, that sounds all firey and brim-stoney, but it really comes down to the simple concept that the severity of the punishment should match the severity of the crime, otherwise you devalue what has been lost by the victim. If the lives of three individuals are only worth a paltry six years, how much is your life worth, or mine?

According to her therapists, progress has been made with the teen girl, but she still, halfway through her sentence, is showing trouble addressing her offences. If she’s still having this much trouble halfway through her sentence, I think she’s going to need a lot more than just another few years to work it out. Maybe that’s why adult rehabilitation for crimes like murder is considered to take lifetime. Maybe that’s why we sometimes lock them up, and leave them there.


Ottawa Citizen, Tuesday November 3rd 2009, Page A3: “Teen killer takes ‘baby steps’ to freedom”

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