BOWDEN, Alta. - A convicted mass murderer apologized to the family of his victims Tuesday, but his words failed to convince them or the National Parole Board that his remorse was real.
David Shearing, 53, shot and killed George and Edith Bentley, their daughter Jackie and her husband, Bob Johnson, while the family was on a camping trip in the B.C. interior in 1982. He kept the Johnsons' daughters Janet, 13, and Karen, 11, alive for almost a week and sexually assaulted them before taking them into the woods, one at a time, and killing them, too.
"I continue to be shamed, thoughtful and aware of the devastation I have caused," he said at his parole hearing in the chapel at the Bowden Institution, north of Calgary.
"My actions will always cause me to feel an overwhelming sense of shame and a lifetime of pain and regret. I am and always will be deeply sorry for the loss I caused them."
Although the Bentley's granddaughter Kelly Nielsen said she detected some remorse in Shearing's words, Shelley Boden, who was the Johnsons' niece, wasn't buying it.
"He said he was sorry for the first time ever. I never heard that before," Boden told reporters after the hearing. "It took him 30 years to say it? Stay there another 30 years to actually feel how sorry you really are."
The National Parole Board ruled Shearing, who now goes by his mother's maiden name, Ennis, still has violent sexual fantasies, hasn't completed sex offender treatment and is not ready for freedom.
"It's quite hard to imagine any crimes more serious or more reprehensible than the ones you committed," the board said at the conclusion of the hearing. "There still is present a large number of risk concerns."
His parole officer also recommended against his release.
"It would be frivolous for me to say he could safely be released into the community," the officer reported.
Shearing is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder. This is his second time asking the board for parole. He is eligible to ask again in two years.
About 25 friends and members of the Johnson and Bentley families attended the hearing.
"Their numbers speak to their continued suffering," the board noted.
Shearing, whose dark hair is now grey and falling out, leaned forward throughout the 4 1/2 hour hearing, speaking softly and with little emotion. He was joined by his supporters, including his wife of 18 years, Heather Ennis.
The two were married while he was behind bars. She said he is a changed man.
"I have a hard time believing this man could kill a fly," Ennis said. "He feels remorse. I've watched him cry. This has hurt everyone. The time has come for him to work his way back."
Scott Baron said he knew Shearing in B.C. before the killings. He said Shearing is a multi-talented man who is a skilled cabinet maker and plays guitar in the prison chapel on Sundays.
"He changed Canada for the worst, but I believe it is now the time we reconsider bringing him back in the larger Canadian family," Baron said. "People who make mistakes need compassion. People who make mistakes need forgiveness."
Shearing told the parole board that he suffered from low self-esteem as a child and had been having violent, sexual fantasies from the time he was 14. He said although he stalked the family, it wasn't until moments before that he decided he was going to kill them.
Shearing said he made a fatal choice and "acted on my fantasies." He called the decision to kill the girls selfish.
"The last weekend, after six days, I knew I was already responsible for the death of four adults and I knew it had to come to a conclusion," he said. "I was very selfish and knew if I let them go I would be held accountable for what I had done."
All six bodies were stuffed in the Johnsons' car, which was rolled down a hill and torched.
"He tossed them into the back of a car like garbage," Tammy Arishenkoff, 43, told the board. She went to school with Janet Johnson.
"Thirty years later he is the same, sick, brutal, callous, remorseless monster he was in 1982," she said quietly.
"He is the monster under the bed we all fear."
Rod Woods, Bob Johnson's nephew, pointed out that future generations of his family were lost by Shearing's actions.
"He showed no mercy, no recourse — no second chance for them," Woods said. "There should be no starting over for Mr. Ennis.
"He still has five life sentences to serve."
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