An imprisoned double cop killer sentenced to death 40 years ago has failed again in a bid to overturn a parole board decision that denied him freedom. Richard Ambrose, 66, is confined to a medium-security prison in British Columbia but he desperately wants out. He is “aggressive,” “hostile,” “confrontational,” has threatened his lawyers and, recently, a psychologist concluded he is a “high risk” to reoffend, according to documents acquired from the Parole Board of Canada. In 1974, Ambrose (inset) and career criminal James Hutchison shot two Moncton, N.B. city police officers in the head and buried the bodies in shallow graves. Quickly caught and convicted, Ambrose and Hutchison were condemned to hang but the sentences were commuted to life in prison after the abolition of the death penalty in Canada. Ambrose has been rebuffed twice in the past three years in complaints to a parole appeal body.
Ambrose also claims that he doesn’t remember the Moncton murders because of a head injury he suffered after he was released to Edmonton on full parole in 2000. Ambrose was working and fell from a roof. His parole was revoked and he was returned to prison in 2005 after he assaulted his wife, choked his sister and threatened halfway house staff. According to parole records, he “over-exaggerate(s) the symptoms” of his head injury and “the board questions whether you are being truthful or selective in your recall abilities.” The board notes that Ambrose has perfect recall of many past incidents in which he claims prison and parole authorities treated him unfairly.
It is a familiar complaint. Ambrose accuses the parole board of treating him unfairly during his most recent hearing, in December 2014. At that hearing, the board ruled that Ambrose presented an “undue risk to society” and denied him any form of release. Ambrose lodged his ‘unfairness’ complaint with the appeal division of the parole board, a second decision making body. It ruled that Ambrose was treated fairly and the decision to deny his bid for freedom was reasonable. Ambrose sought to turn the appeal into an attack on the correctional system but the appeal division rebuffed him.
“The Appeal Division will not address your submission with regard to your complaints that some Institutional Parole Officers are liars and that reports were withheld from you by Correctional Service of Canada staff,” the June 16, 2015 decision states.
The appeal division also concluded that it was reasonable to deny release because of the gravity of Ambrose’s crimes, his past failure on parole, and “your failure to take responsibility for your behaviour, your lack of insight, your inadequate release plan, your high risk to reoffend, your distrust of CSC staff,” according to the written record of the decision.
Ambrose also failed in a complaint to the appeal division after he was denied parole in 2012.
For most of the past four decades, Ambrose has remained behind bars, although prison has not always contained him.
In July 1980, just six years after the Moncton murders, Ambrose and a fellow convict at maximum-security Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick sawed through the bars of their cells, climbed to the roof and used a homemade ladder to scale the wall and escape. They were caught three days later. Eight years was tacked onto Ambrose’s life sentence.
For the first 17 years of his prison sentence, Ambrose refused to speak to prison officials about the murders. He did not admit his role in the killings until 1992, when he told a prison psychologist that he fired one of the fatal shots.
In previous parole hearings, he has been “condescending and sarcastic.” His answers have been “evasive” and he has insisted that prison staff can’t be trusted. He still harbours a “significant amount of resentment,” records state, over the revocation of his parole in 2005.
Ambrose has not been a model prisoner. Recently, he has been “confrontational” toward prison staff and shown “aggressive and intimidating behaviour.” In May 2014, while being interviewed by two female prison staffers he became aggressive and loud. He has treated lawyers poorly. In 2013, a lawyer refused to represent him any longer because he had become demanding and threatening. In 2014, another lawyer complained to the prison warden and police because of what he considered a threatening letter from Ambrose.
Ambrose, who changed his name to Bergeron after he was imprisoned, married while behind bars and fathered a daughter in 1992 but he is, according to the parole records, now divorcing his “pro-social” wife and plans to live on his own if released.
Ambrose told the parole board in December 2014 that he has the support of his adult children and he insisted that he won’t “screw up” if released.
He’ll be eligible again in 2016 to seek release.
Here’s the written record of the decision June 16, 2015 by the Appeal Division of the Parole Board of Canada:
Here is the written record of the decision by the Parole Board of Canada on December 4, 2014 denying parole to Ambrose:
» Read the complete story of the 1974 murders
» Read the full story of the 2011 death behind bars of fellow killer James Hutchison
» Decision of Parole Board of Canada August 2012 denying parole
» Appeal Division of Parole Board of Canada decision December 2012