03/26/2014 02:23 EDT | Updated 05/26/2014 05:59 EDT

Shawn Hennessey, Convicted In Mountie Deaths, Allowed Unescorted Absences From Prison

BOWDEN, Alta. - A man convicted of manslaughter for his role in the shooting deaths of four Alberta RCMP officers near Mayerthorpe has been granted unescorted, temporary absences from prison.

The National Parole Board ruled Wednesday that Shawn Hennessey will be allowed out for up to 72 hours at a time over the next six months.

Board spokesman Gary Sears said Hennessey, 34, will have to follow certain restrictions.

"There are three conditions: not to consume or possess alcohol, not to consume, purchase or possess drugs and to avoid negative associates, those involved in criminal activity," Sears said.

Hennessey was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but his jail time was reduced to a little more than 10 years because he pleaded guilty and spent time in pretrial custody.

He and his brother-in-law Dennis Cheeseman gave gunman James Roszko a rifle and ride to Roszko's farm where he ambushed and killed the RCMP officers in March 2005.

The decision disappointed Doreen Jewell-Duffy, the mother of Const. Anthony Gordon, one of the officers who was gunned down.

"I told the parole board this is my last statement regarding Shawn Hennessey because nothing is going to change the outcome. I told the parole board I hope the deaths of the fallen four haunt Shawn until the day he expires," she said afterward.

"I knew in the back of my mind that the parole board would give him unescorted leave. I just don't know why time is spent in the court system to hand down sentences only to have the parole board give the criminal shorter time. I'm not angry. I'm disappointed."

Federal Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney issued a statement through his press secretary.

"This individual was convicted of despicable crimes," Blaney said. "We cannot comment on specific decisions of the Parole Board of Canada. Our government believes that those who commit shockingly violent acts, including the murder of law enforcement officers, belong behind bars."

The 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.

Cheeseman was sentenced to 12 years, but his jail time worked out to just over seven years because of credit he, too, received.

The two unsuccessfully asked the Alberta Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada to shorten their sentences even more. Their lawyers argued the punishment was vengeful and too severe.

The men said they feared for their own safety and that of their families if they didn't help Roszko. They were turned down at both court levels.

Cheeseman was granted statutory release late last year.

Hennessey is eligible for statutory release on Dec. 29, 2015.

Jewell-Duffy said the last nine years have done little to heal her wounds.

"It has been really hard. There are days that go by that I'm hoping he walks through the front door and says: 'Surprise Mom.' But it's not going to happen ... it will never happen again."

— By Bill Graveland in Calgary

Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

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