ALBERTA

Shawn Hennessey, Mayerthorpe Shooting Convict, Granted Full Parole

05/12/2015 04:00 EDT | Updated 05/11/2016 05:59 EDT
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EDMONTON - One of two men convicted in the shooting deaths of four Mounties in rural Alberta has been granted full parole and says he'll be able to deal with anyone who isn't happy about his return home.

The Parole Board of Canada said Tuesday that Shawn Hennessey has been functioning well since he was allowed to live in a halfway house last fall. But it also expressed concern that he may not be welcomed by everyone when he rejoins his family in Barrhead, northwest of Edmonton.

Hennessey, 35, told the board he will handle any hostility with apologies and declarations that he is a changed man.

"I am a different person today," he said.

Hennessey and his brother-in-law, Dennis Cheeseman, pleaded guilty to manslaughter for giving James Roszko a gun 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 during a marijuana grow-op and automobile chop-shop investigation.

Roszko ambushed and killed the officers before killing himself.

Hennessey said he used to be an immature, self-centred person, who did and sold drugs and hung around with unsavoury characters such as Roszko. He said he was scared and confused when he persuaded his brother-in-law to join him and dropped the killer off at the farm that night.

"I should have done the right thing and phoned the RCMP," he said.

"I could have changed so many things."

Hennessey was sentenced in 2009 to 10 years and four months. Cheeseman was handed seven years and two months and freed on statutory release in 2013.

While on day parole, Hennessey has been allowed to visit his wife and two daughters every weekend. He said he has attended some of his youngest girl's sporting events and many people have supported him.

But not all. He had wanted to attend a parade in the town but officials asked him not to come.

"The community probably isn't going to welcome you with open arms," said parole board member Marilyn Kenny.

"People have long memories ... We can't forget the victims because there are many."

When applying for jobs, Hennessey said he also came across people who wouldn't hire him because of his name. But one employer "stuck his neck out" by giving him construction work and even a promotion.

Hennessey's wife, Christine, sat beside him and wiped away tears as she told the board that her husband will always be linked to a crime that devastated the country.

Hennessey added that he thinks about the dead officers and their families every day.

As part of his release, he is not to contact any members of the victims' families nor is he to travel to Lac la Biche, Alta. The mother of one of the RCMP officers lives there and requested he not be allowed in the town.

Myrol's mother Colleen, who lives in Red Deer, Alta., said she started to cry when she and her husband learned about Hennessey's release.

"I said to Keith, 'It's over.' You know, it's been a long haul."

She said she has written Hennessey a letter and tucked it away in her china cabinet until a day, maybe years down the road, when she's willing to sit and talk with him.

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