GRANDE CACHE, Alta. - People who have suffered because of the murder of four Alberta RCMP officers quietly wept as a man convicted of manslaughter in the deaths pleaded for parole Wednesday within the walls of a remote prison.
Shawn Hennessy's bid for day parole and temporary unescorted passes was rejected by officials who said it is too soon — that he needs to be more open about what he did and how he is dealing with the enormity of the crime.
Just before the ruling was handed down, Hennessey told the hearing he is slowly coming to grips with the consequences of his decision to help gunman James Roszko in the hours before the Mounties were ambushed on March 3, 2005, on his farm near Mayerthorpe.
"I played a very large part in a very tragic event that led to the loss of four lives, the lives of four men that were sworn to preserve and protect," Hennessey said as the mothers of two of the dead Mounties looked on inside the Grande Cache prison chapel.
"I can never imagine what those families have gone through. The despair and anguish that they have suffered. I am ashamed of myself for allowing me to be involved.
"This is something that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I will live with this on my conscience for the rest of my life."
Hennessey, 32, was sentenced in January 2009 to 15 years in prison, but that was reduced to 10 years, four months and 15 days because he pleaded guilty and spent time in pretrial custody.
During the hearing, Hennessey's parole officer said Hennessey has made solid progress and recommended that he be granted day parole and unescorted passes.
The parole board also heard emotional victim impact statements from two women who lost their sons that fateful day.
Doreen Jewell-Duffy held a picture of a smiling constable Anthony Gordon in his scarlet dress uniform as she told the hearing how she had kissed her son's cold forehead before the lid was closed on his coffin.
"Shawn, you are a pathological liar. A coward,'' she said through choked sobs. "I will never forgive you for helping Roszko kill my son. For me, March 3 is every day."
The four officers were staking out a marijuana grow-op and auto chop shop that had been discovered on Roszko's property when they were ambushed. Roszko killed himself after being shot by another Mountie who had just arrived at the scene.
Grace Johnston, mother of Mountie Leo Johnston, scolded Hennessey for even applying for parole and called on him to serve his full sentence.
She said the trial, the appeals and now the parole hearing have forced her and others who lost loved ones in the shootings to relive the horror of that day.
"There are too many constant reminders. Almost every morning I feel it. He may as well have pulled the trigger," she said.
"Just accept responsibility and serve the sentence. Stop the victimization. When is enough enough?"
Constables Brock Myrol and Peter Schiemann also died that day. The Myrol family decided not to attend the hearing, but sent a written submission that argued against the parole request. Don Schiemann, Peter's father, did not attend or make a submission.
Throughout the hearing, Hennessey's wife, Christine, sat beside him and held his hand. His mother, Sandy Hennessey, bowed her head and quietly cried as she clutched a tissue.
None of the families was immediately available for comment after the ruling.
Hennessey can reapply for parole in six months. His statutory release date is Dec. 29, 2015.
His brother-in-law, Dennis Cheeseman, also pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the Mountie shootings. He was sentenced to 12 years, although that was reduced to seven years, two months and 15 days.
Last May, the parole board turned down Cheeseman's request for day and full parole. The 28-year-old is to have a full parole hearing next April. If parole isn't granted then, he is legally entitled to be released from prison on Nov. 19, 2013, after completing two-thirds of his sentence.