Peter Stark, a killer who disposed of the body of his teenage victim in an isolated, makeshift grave, was granted a “compassionate” pass to get out of prison to visit the grave of a dead friend. Stark, who was convicted of murdering 14-year-old Julie Stanton of Pickering, Ontario, was granted an escorted pass by the Parole Board of Canada that allowed him out of penitentiary last year, Cancrime learned. Police and prosecutors believe that Stark abducted, drugged and raped Julie, who was a friend of Stark’s teenage daughter, on April 16, 1990. Julie was last seen getting into a car with Stark on that day and it is believed he also had drugged and raped her a year earlier. Stark maintained his innocence but strong circumstantial evidence led to his conviction on December 1, 1994 for first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. Julie’s remains were found 35 kilometres north of Pickering on June 27, 1996. Stark, from Stoney Creek, in the Hamilton area, was granted the escorted temporary absence, a short-term get-out-of-prison pass, after a decision in June 2012 by the Parole Board of Canada (read decision after jump), based on a recommendation from the Correctional Service of Canada.
(UPDATE: Stark died while still behind bars in August 2016.)
The Parole Board agreed to allow Stark out of prison, on the condition that he be kept shackled and under escort of correctional officers at all times, according to the written record of the board’s decision, dated June 5, 2012. The record does not indicate whether Stark took advantage of the pass. According to the document, Stark met “legislative criteria” for the pass, a “compassionate escorted temporary absence” because the person died in January 2012 but Stark did not learn about it until after the funeral had been held. The board wrote:
In terms of the relevant circumstances for your proposed ETA, the board is satisified that your overall risk would be manageable as there is a structured release plan in place. You will be within sights and sound of security officers at all times and you will be constantly supervised while on the ETA. Further, you will be in full restraint equipment. The ETA will be for approximately seven hours duration.
The identity of the person whose grave was to be visited was censored from the document, but the individual was identified as “a community support who provided you with family supports.”
The document provides the first insight into Stark’s time behind bars, since his conviction in 1994. The record reveals that he is no longer being held in maximum security, though the security level of the prison in Ontario where he is now held was redacted from the document. The Parole Board noted that “there are no security concerns noted in your file and that you have not come to the attention of the Security Intelligence Officer (SIO) since 1997.” The document does not explain why Stark came under the scrutiny of the prison’s SIO in ’97. The document also appears to disclose publicly for the first time that Stark was involved in other sex crimes, before he killed Julie. The parole board document states:
Your file also indicates a history of involvement in similar types of offences where you drugged a young female and sexually assaulted her as well as stabbing a female hitchhiker and throwing her from your car.
The parole document indicates that Stark is now considered a “low-moderate risk for re-offending.”
I spoke to Stark in October 1996, by telephone from Kingston Penitentiary, after Julie’s body had been found. He insisted that DNA testing of samples from her remains would exonerate him. “I’m definitely innocent,” he said.
Stark told me that a jailhouse informant who testified against him, Gerald Udall, lied.
“He made up a phoney statement,” said Stark, who did not testify at his trial.
Forensic examination of Julie’s remains, which were in an advanced stage of decomposition, did not provide any conclusive evidence that she had been sexually assaulted or drugged. (For a detailed description of the state of the remains and forensic testing, read the decision released in 2000 by the Court of Appeal for Ontario, rejecting Stark’s appeal.) Stark is eligible to seek full parole in February 2017. He will be eligible in 2014 to apply for day parole and unescorted passes from prison.
Here is the decision of the Parole Board issued in 2012, granting Stark an escorted temporary absence pass from prison: