Dread has stalked Annette Rogers for 30 years, since her abusive former boyfriend, Jamie Giff (inset), first threatened to kill her in 1985. “I’m scared of him,” she says, her voice trembling. “I don’t care what anybody says.” Giff is a killer. He raped and stabbed to death a teenage girl in 1985. For the past three decades, Rogers fought, but ultimately failed, to keep him behind bars. She was horrified when she learned recently that Giff, free on parole, had done something that so alarmed his supervisor that he was taken into custody and his parole suspended. When he was freed a month later and his parole was reinstated, authorities cited privacy laws and refused to tell anyone, including Rogers, what happened. “So I sat here, vibrating, didn’t know what to do,” she says.
On January 28, 1985, when Giff first threatened to kill Rogers, he could not find her, so he raped and stabbed to death Heather Fraser, a 16-year-old girl he did not know and who he encountered by chance while prowling the streets of Smiths Falls, the small eastern Ontario town where he lived. Giff was enraged, in part, because Rogers had told him she was ending their dysfunctional relationship. Heather was a gifted student and athlete.
“That day, the rage to kill became uncontrollable,” Giff told me, in an interview in 2009 at the Ontario penitentiary where he was then incarcerated. “Annette was the intended victim. Heather Fraser was an innocent victim.”
It is the only time Giff has spoken publicly about the murder – he did not testify at his trial in which he was treated as an adult, although he was 17 when he killed Heather. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. In prison, he was diagnosed as a sexual sadist, someone who derives pleasure from inflicting pain. Giff confessed to prison counsellors that he had mutilated Heather’s genitals with his buck knife during the attack though he later claimed the admission was untrue and that he had been pressured to make the statement in a therapy session. In an unusual development, recent prison reports backtracked. Experts now say that “the former diagnosis of sexual sadism could not longer apply in your case.” A 2012 report from a psychiatrist assessed Giff’s risk of sexual recidivism as low. Other reports point to “compliant behaviour” in prison and a conclusion that his “antisocial personality disorder seems far less prevalent.”
Giff insists he has changed. He says his alcohol and drug addictions are contained and he and is no longer driven by misogynistic rage. In his interview with me in 2009, he said that the day he raped and murdered Heather: “I was a psycho. I had no remorse, no compassion for nobody. I didn’t even care about my own life — but I’m different now.”
Rogers doesn’t believe him.
“No, I don’t,” she answers without hesitation. “Would you? – and I’m the one who’s kept him in there.”
In there is in prison. Giff was behind bars until he was granted significant freedom early in 2015. He was released on day parole, a form of supervised release that permits him to live at a halfway house in Montreal. He can leave the halfway house daily but must return nightly and he must report to a parole officer. He is under orders to stay away from Rogers and her family. But something went wrong with Giff’s parole recently. In October, his parole was suspended and he was taken into custody to assess his risk to the community. In early November, the suspension was lifted and Giff was returned to the halfway house. Rogers was notified that Giff was free again but she was not told what had transpired. Because a parole hearing was not conducted, there is no publicly accessible, written record of Giff’s transgression.
“Unfortunately I can’t comment on this issue because the board is not responsible for the supervision of the offender,” said Luc Desbien, a Quebec spokesman for the Parole Board of Canada, which first released Giff on day parole.
It is a bizarre feature of the parole and correctional systems in Canada – two separate and independent bureaucracies – that one can free an imprisoned murderer and the reasons for the decision are fully publicly accessible but, once free, the paroled murderer is supervised by a parole officer who works for the Correctional Service of Canada, and whose actions are secretive.
“We won’t be able to comment on the case because we don’t give information related to an offender but usually in that kind of situation we only give general information,” said Jean-Francois Cusson, a spokesman for Corrections Canada in Quebec. Cusson said he could not disclose why Giff was taken into custody and why he was later released.
“That’s not the kind of information that we provide,” Cusson said.
Rogers is exasperated.
“Doesn’t the public have a right to know if he messed up?” she asks.
Heidi Illingworth, a longtime advocate for rights of victims, says it is a bad system that leaves victims in the dark.
“Not informing victims of the behaviour that caused parole to be suspended causes additional anxiety and is a revictimization,” said Illingworth, head of the Ottawa-based Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime.
Even if the offending behaviour is minor, victims should be told immediately about it, she said, so that they can “feel safe or take steps to address their safety.”
Rogers, who has been to every one of Giff’s many parole hearings and has argued at those hearings that he should be kept locked up, remains fearful and angry.
“Why should I have to go into hiding?” she asks.
Here’s the written record of the Parole Board of Canada decision January 13, 2015, granting Giff day parole release:
Here is the written record of the decision by the Parole Board of Canada on July 10, 2015, permitting Giff to continue to remain free from prison on day parole:
» Read all of Cancrime’s coverage of the Giff case