Seven years ago, one of Canada’s most notorious imprisoned child killers, Saul Betesh (inset), began pursuing penpals on a U.S.-based website for lonely inmates. Betesh is now into his fourth decade behind bars and he’s still hunting friendship by letter. The reviled sex murderer has posted another online ad soliciting penpals, this time on a Canadian-based site. Betesh’s ad (screenshot after the jump) reveals that he’s no longer in Ontario – he was at medium-security Warkworth Institution near Campbellford, Ontario when he posted his 2010 ad – but he’s now at Pacific Institution, about 80 kilometres east of Vancouver. Six years ago, Betesh slyly concealed the horror of his crime. His ad described his offence only as “assault.” Now, he’s shown the temerity to confess he’s serving time for first-degree murder and acknowledges that “my crime was bad.”
Betesh says, in his new penpal ad (screenshot below, along with a screenshot of his 2010 ad) on Canadianinmatesconnect.com, that he’s a bit overweight, but that can be explained by 41 years of prison food. He’s a dungeons and dragons fan, a “practicing Druid Bard,” he plays chess, he works with stained glass and, he claims, sews quilts for charity. He also says that he reads, does work in the prison greenhouse and watches sci-fi television.
“In closing, I won’t lie to you,” writes Betesh, 66. “My crime was bad, but with treatment and a bit more time I feel I can once again become a productive member of society.”
As I said six years ago, when Cancrime revealed Betesh’s 2010 advertisement, he seems to have a knack for understating the gravity of his offence. “Bad” seems a miserably incomplete descriptor.
Betesh was convicted in 1978, along with Robert Kribs and Josef Woods, of the sexual torture and murder of 12-year-old Emanuel Jaques (inset right), a boy that Betesh plucked off a seedy section of downtown Yonge Street in Toronto, Ontario. Betesh offered Emanuel $25 to help carry camera equipment. Instead he took the boy to a flophouse above a body rub parlour where the boy was forced to engage in sex acts with the men. Betesh confessed the details to investigators and returned to the apartment with investigators to re-enact the murder. He explained that he and his accomplices were gay predators who regularly snatched boys off the street and forced them into sex acts. Betesh said he and Kribs took turns violating the boy for about two hours. After they had raped Emanuel, they fed him sleeping pills. They planned to release the drugged boy in a park, but Betesh said, in his confession that was read in court, that the pills didn’t work, so he tried to strangle the boy with a cord. After that failed, Betesh drowned Emanuel in a sink. The killers wrapped the child’s body in two plastic garbage bags and a plastic curtain and hid it behind a pile of lumber on the roof of the building. The conspirators were caught within days. A fourth man, Werner Gruener, was charged but was acquitted of first-degree murder at trial. Woods died behind bars in 2003. Kribs was denied parole in 2002.
Betesh has never been reviewed for parole, even though he was eligible to seek full parole in 2002. He has waived his right for parole hearings, perhaps because he knows he will never be set free.
In prison, he has often been a lumbering pest, filing repeated complaints about his treatment. He engaged in numerous abortive hunger strikes to press demands. He always backed down, particularly in the face of derision by prison officials who noted that he was grossly overweight. In 2002, while he was incarcerated at Kingston Penitentiary, Betesh sent me a letter outlining his latest hunger strike manifesto, notably the ultimatum that he and a same-sex partner should be transferred together to another penitentiary. His demands were not met.
In 2011, he threatened to stop taking insulin to bring on kidney failure so that prison managers would face exorbitant costs to treat him. Betesh did not follow through on the threat.
The conviction in 1978 of Betesh, Kribs and Woods, set off a sweeping crackdown on Toronto’s Yonge Street sin strip of body rub parlours and porn houses.
Betesh’s recent ad on the Canadian Inmates Connect website and, below, his 2010 ad on an American penpal site: