We may never know exactly how many times Melissa Ann Shephard (inset) has killed. In a criminal career that spans five decades, Shephard has sown confusion, obfuscated with layers of lies and masqueraded as a victim. The criminal justice system, unable to affix the damning labels she may deserve – serial killer, psychopath – continues to turn her loose to kill again and struggles to contain her. She has learned from her criminal mistakes and profited from her predation. Infamous as the ‘Internet Black Widow,’ Shephard was released Friday (March 18, 2016) from a women’s prison in Nova Scotia – amid a police warning – after her latest stint behind bars, a three-and-a-half year sentence. It was imposed in 2013 after she admitting spiking drinks of her newlywed fifth husband, 74-year-old Fred Weeks, with potent tranquilizers. An attempted murder charge was dropped when Shephard pleaded guilty to lesser charges. Two of Shephard’s four husbands who preceded Weeks ended up dead and another mysteriously fell ill immediately after meeting Shephard. Recent prison assessments (read what experts say, in internal documents after the jump) warn that Shephard scores high for some psychopathic traits, she is resistant to treatment and indifferent to the suffering of her victims. The only thing that has contained her lethal greed in the past 40+ years has been time behind bars and yet, the system has refused to apply the brand that could keep her locked up.
Terror took root in central Saskatchewan on this day 40 years ago. On June 15, 1975, two children, 12-year-old Dahrlyne Cranfield and Robert Grubesic (inset), 9, disappeared while riding their bicycles along the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon. Roughly a month later, Samantha Turner, 8, and Cathy Scott, 7, disappeared. Parents kept their children home behind locked doors. Finally, a tip led police to David Threinen, a truck driver with a history of sex attacks against children. He confessed and led officers to the bodies of his victims. He had strangled them and dumped them in two remote locations outside Saskatoon. A psychiatric report revealed in parole records (read document after the jump) would later describe Threinen as “a cold, amoral individual who felt compelled to offend sexually against children and who experienced no remorse for his victims even when he killed them.”
Do killers locked in Canadian prisons marry, get conjugal visits with their new wives and father children, while they remain behind bars? Yes, yes, and yes. In fact, it happens regularly. But what about a sadistic serial rapist and killer like Paul Bernardo (inset), who has been in prison since November 1995, after he was convicted of murdering two teenage girls in Ontario, Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy? Well, maybe. The questions are relevant, given news (broken in a story by Sunmedia) that Bernardo has struck up a romantic relationship with a 30-year-old woman from London, Ontario, who wants to marry the man considered one of the most depraved serial killers caught in Canada in the last half century. I think Bernardo may be working a scheme with this relationship.
Police said, five years ago, that they were “tantalizingly close” to solving the murders of two women killed in Toronto decades ago, but the 30th anniversary of those deaths is at hand and the killings remain unsolved. Susan Tice, 45, (inset), a former Calgary resident who had moved to Toronto just before she was slain, and Erin Gilmour, 22, were killed four months apart, by the same perpetrator, police believe. Toronto Police have a video, photos and details of the crimes on their cold case web page. Police used DNA testing to link the murders. The link, and the failure of investigators to close these cases, raises the troubling possibility that a serial killer was never caught and could still be stalking and killing women.
The new political boss of Canada’s prison system appears to have ignored privacy laws, interfered politically in a system governed strictly by the law and intentionally sought to mislead the public. At least, this is what we can infer from the public statement of rookie Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, issued with lightning speed soon after media across Canada matched the story reported first at Cancrime that serial sex killer Paul Bernardo asked for a transfer to a lower security prison. Blaney was quick to announce that he had been assured by Corrections Canada that there there are “no plans” to move Bernardo to a medium-security penitentiary. Blaney’s terse statement was confirmation that Corrections had refused to provide about Bernardo’s intentions and an indication that the minister stuck his nose in where he had no business.
Sex slayer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo believes he deserves to live in the more comfortable and less restrictive confines of a medium-security prison. After 18 lonely years in the mind-numbing isolation of a super-secure segregation unit inside maximum-security Kingston Penitentiary, Bernardo has asked for a transfer to a lower-security prison, sources tell me. Soon, he will have to be moved to a new home because Kingston Pen is slated to close. Bernardo covets a spot at medium-security Bath Institution, a complex of cottage-style dormitories on a sprawling 640-acre lakefront property just west of Kingston, according to my sources. Bernardo wants to stay in Ontario to remain close to family. He does not want to be shipped to a penitentiary in another province. Bernardo has been visited in prison by his mother, according to sources.
Criminal defence lawyers Michael Edelson and his partner Vince Clifford took extraordinary precautions in the handling of the sensational sex-murder case of Russell Williams. I had a chance to interview the veteran Ottawa lawyers who defended Williams, the former airbase commander who pleaded guilty to raping and murdering two women. The revelations from the lawyers form the core of a feature story that I wrote for Canadian Lawyer magazine.
(Olson died behind bars on September 30, 2011)
Serial child killer Clifford Olson’s claim – if you can believe it – that he won’t seek parole again, is a relief to the families of his victims. On her Facebook page dedicated to her murdered sister, Brigitte Kozma wrote that she prays he’ll be true to his word – her sister, Judy Kozma (inset) was 14 when she was slain by Olson. “It kills us every time,” he appears for parole, Brigitte wrote, summing up the feelings of the small army of shattered families who have never really recovered from Olson’s lethal, eight-month rampage in British Columbia that began in 1980. Olson was denied parole for the second time (full document after the jump) at a hearing inside a Quebec prison on November 30.
The moment that many families across Canada dread has a date – November 30. That day has been set for a parole hearing for infamous serial child killer Clifford Olson, who is serving 11 concurrent life sentences in a federal penitentiary in Quebec. This will be Olson’s second parole hearing, if it goes ahead, since he was arrested in 1981. I received a notice from the Parole Board of Canada, explaining that so many reporters and others have applied to attend Olson’s hearing, that some will have to watch it on closed-circuit television in a room separate from the hearing room where Olson faces the board members.
Paroled thief Bill MacNeill – free from prison just a few weeks – seems to have enough to worry about; finding a job, transportation, medical care. Now a 13-year-old nightmare has come back to haunt him. “Holy shit,” he said, as he pored over a newspaper story Thursday afternoon, while sitting at a steel table in the kitchen of a grimy basement Kingston apartment that he shares with two other men.