ALBERTA

Shawn Hennessey, Mayerthorpe Shooting Convict, Granted Day Parole

09/23/2014 04:00 EDT | Updated 11/22/2014 05:59 EST
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BOWDEN, Alta. - A man convicted for his role in the shooting deaths of four Alberta Mounties has been granted day parole and is pledging to honour the officer's memories by proving he's turned his life around.

Shawn Hennessey dabbed his eyes as the parole board ruled he will only have to stay at a halfway house in the evenings.

The board said the 36-year-old has taken responsibility for his actions and shown empathy for his victims.

"It will bother me for the rest of my life. The hurt I have caused for so many people will never go away," Hennessey told the board Tuesday.

"I think four lives were torn apart that day. Their loved ones will never get their lives back. I am grateful to be able to return back to my family."

Hennessey and his brother-in-law, Dennis Cheeseman, pleaded guilty to manslaughter for giving James Roszko a rifle and a ride to Roszko's farm near Mayerthorpe in 2005.

Constables Peter Schiemann, Anthony Gordon, Brock Myrol and Leo Johnston had been guarding a Quonset hut on Roszko's farm as part of a marijuana grow-op and automobile chop-shop investigation.

Roszko ambushed and killed the four officers before he killed himself.

Hennessey was sentenced in 2009 to 10 years and four months for his role in the crime. Cheeseman was handed seven years and two months.

Cheeseman was granted statutory release late last year after serving two-thirds of his sentence, but was arrested last month for having prescription drugs that were not in his name. He pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance and was fined $1,000.

Hennessey had already been granted more unescorted, temporary absences following a hearing a year ago. He has been allowed to visit his family for up to 78 hours, once every month, for six months. The board ruled Tuesday that those unescorted visits can continue.

His parole officer recommended that Hennessey be granted day parole, saying he has continued to take counselling and has been allowed out of the Bowden prison daily to work in the area.

Hennessey said he intends to seek marriage counselling once released to help with his transition. His wife Christine sat next to him during the two-hour hearing.

One of the board members noted that during the investigation, Hennessey admitted to an undercover officer that he was having affairs with two other women and a 15-year-old girl. Perhaps that is what the counselling should focus on, the board member wondered.

But Christine Hennessey said their marriage is fine.

"I am where I need to be with that. It's going to hurt my feelings forever. It's not going to go away," she said.

"I personally don't think we need it. I think we're very strong."

She said her husband has managed to keep in touch with his two daughters and doesn't focus on what he has been going through in prison.

"Not the fact his heart is breaking because he can't be there. He walks with his eyes open. He has become someone I rely on ... someone who owns up to his mistakes," she said.

"He wants to come home. He's ready to come home. We want him home."

Hennessey does not have a job yet, but has an offer to work construction in the Barrhead, Alta., area, where his family lives.

None of the members of the officers' families was on hand for Tuesday's hearing.

The board noted that, but said there were many "heartbreaking" letters on file expressing their grief.

"I will prove I am a different person, that these things will never come from Shawn Hennessey again," Hennessey said.

"I want to honour the victims and prove I have changed."

His statutory release date is Dec. 29, 2015. He is eligible to apply for full parole in six months.

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