The truth is I don't know what I would do.
But this is a reality for families living in Châteauguay, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal. The news broke earlier this week that Karla Homolka has been living in the Quebec community under the name Leanne Bordelais with her three school-age children. Parents from the community are outraged, and perhaps understandably so.
When you Google Karla Homolka, the Wikipedia entry under her name has the subtitle "Serial Killer" because that is what she is. The husband-wife team of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka dominated the headlines here in southern Ontario (and made international media waves as well) in the early '90s.
The details of their crimes -- the rape and murder of at least three teenage girls, including Homolka's very own sister -- and the subsequent trial was reported widely. Anyone in Canada who is old enough to remember feels a mixture of disgust and horror at the mention of either of their names.
While Paul Bernardo will likely remain in prison for the rest of his life, Homolka struck a plea bargain with the crown prosecutors and was sentenced to a mere 12 years in exchange for testifying against Bernardo.
Video evidence came to light later that showed Homolka was not the victim she claimed to be and that she played an active role in the rapes and murders. The media then dubbed the crown's plea bargain the "Deal with the Devil." Also note that while Bernardo was already a serial rapist (the Scarborough Rapist those of us living in Toronto will remember), he didn't kill anyone until he teamed up with Homolka.
So in 2005, after serving 12 years, Homolka was released from prison. She was 35 years old. She married her attorney's brother and had a baby in 2007. I had my first baby in 2006 and I have to marvel at the parallels. When my son was born I felt like I still had my whole life ahead of me. Karla Homolka was released from prison with her whole life ahead of her.
So now Homolka has had three children in total, living under various pseudonyms, and moving from one place to another whenever the media track her down. Parents from the community where she is now living are livid.
Here are some samples of quotes from this Montreal Gazette article: "A child should not have to pay for a parent's crime, but that's unfortunately what will happen." "I'd like parents to step up and make a stink." "I don't deserve to be uncomfortable sending my kids to school. People like that don't deserve second chances." "I know her kids have got a right ... but not in our neighbourhood."
And, man, isn't that harsh for the kids? Despite their mother's vile past, they still have the right to go to school and live without constant harassment. My fellow Toronto blogger and mom of three, Kat Armstrong, says, "Even if she is a monster, her kids don't know that and they love her." Armstrong thinks it's the kids who will wind up being punished. "To be honest, whether I agree or not with her choice to procreate, anything that happens will be punitive against her children and not her necessarily. I would allow her kids to play with mine. I would not allow her to drop them off at my house, however."
On the one hand, I agree with Kat. On the other, my gut tells me to keep my kids far away from that woman, and I can't blame parents for trying to do just that.
It's a miserable situation for those children, to be sure. But the root of the problem is really that their mom is a serial killer. That seriously sucks for them. At some point, they're going to figure that out and that's got to mess a person up, like, big time.
In the meantime, I guess they'll move again. They can't stay where they are. Should the media hunt Homolka down again? Do we have the right to keep tabs on her? I honestly don't know. On the one hand, as long as she isn't in jail, doesn't that have to include the right to live freely? On the other, I would definitely want to know if she was living in my community and perhaps the media are doing a service by outing her.
What do you think?
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