ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — Two decades after 14-year-old Reena Virk was savagely beaten and drowned near a bridge in the Victoria area, her killer has been granted conditional approval for day parole.
Kelly Ellard, 35, wiped away tears on Thursday as a two-member panel granted her day parole for six months. She'll first have to complete a residential treatment program for substance abuse during that term.
Panel member Colleen Zuk said Ellard was largely responsible for Virk's death in a crime she described as "heinous."
"It's very problematic in your case that there have been years and years of deception, of lying about the facts," Zuk said. "Today we found that you continued to somewhat minimize."
However, she said she found Ellard to be more transparent than in the past, including admitting she planned to harm Virk and saying she wanted to "get rid of her" after the beating.
Zuk said it helped that Ellard has done trauma counselling and had the support of her parole officer, who said her last substance abuse issue was in June 2015 and she has not been violent in a decade.
Before the decision, Ellard said there was nothing Virk could have possibly said or done to deserve what happened to her.
"It wasn't about her," she said. "She should have been at home with her family who loved her, not out with us that night, and I'm very sorry."
After six months, the parole board will review the decision. Ellard will be subject to conditions including that she not use drugs or alcohol or contact anyone involved in crime or Virk's family.
She should have been at home with her family who loved her, not with us that night, and I'm very sorry.Kelly Ellard
Ellard has served about 15 years in prison, having spent some periods out on bail. She was convicted of second-degree murder in 2005 after three trials and is serving a life sentence.
Mukand Pallan, Virk's grandfather, said the family has been waiting for an apology for 20 years.
"If she has admitted fully her guilt, and she has said sorry, I don't think there's anything else we can ask for. And if she's just playing games like she's been doing for the last 20 years, it won't satisfy us," he said.
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"Still, she has to admit fully that she's responsible for it and she killed Reena. And she should say 'I'm sorry for that.'"
A court heard Ellard, then 15, and several other teens swarmed and beat Virk before Ellard and a teenage boy followed her across the bridge, smashed her head into a tree and held her underwater until she drowned.
Still, she has to admit fully that she's responsible for it and she killed Reena. And she should say 'I'm sorry for that.'Mukand Pallan, Reena Virk's grandfather
Warren Glowatski was also convicted of second-degree murder and granted full parole in 2010.
Ellard has recently assumed more responsibility for her part in the murder, saying she rolled Virk's unconscious body into the Gorge waterway.
But she continued to deny holding the girl's head underwater on Thursday.
"I am adamant that didn't happen," she told the panel. "Someone who had been beaten that badly, you wouldn't need to hold them under water."
Either she was dead or she was dying. I just wanted to get rid of her.Kelly Ellard
The panel pressed her to explain why she pushed Virk's body into the water. Ellard replied that she was terrified the girl would call police.
"I had never seen anything like that," Ellard said, breaking down in tears. "Either she was dead or she was dying. I just wanted to get rid of her."
When asked who was responsible for Virk's death, she replied, "I am."
Had a baby while in prison
Ellard first applied for day parole in 2016 and was denied. But in February she was granted temporary escorted absences to go to parenting programs and doctors' appointments with her infant son.
She became pregnant last year after having conjugal visits with her boyfriend, who is also in prison and is scheduled to return to the community soon. The baby lives with Ellard in prison.
Ellard said she has suffered from anxiety her entire life and it was especially acute when she first went out on escorted absences.
"When I was first going out and someone looked at me, (I thought) they're judging me and I have a sign flashing above my head that I'm a monster," she said.
But Ellard said she turned her attention to her son and thought about how lucky she was to have him.
She said she intends to co-parent with her boyfriend but if he commits a crime or uses drugs, she's prepared to leave.
"As much as I love him, if I had to let go ... for the sake of myself and my child, I would."
With files from Gemma Karstens-Smith in Vancouver.
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