Mass murderer David Shearing denied parole
Parole has been denied again for a Bowden Institution inmate accused of one of the most heinous crimes in Canadian history.
David Shearing, 53, received the harshest sentence that had ever been given for second-degree murder after confessing in 1984 to shooting to death an entire family, including two children, their parents and their grandparents. The family had been camping at Wells Gray Provincial Park in the B.C. interior, north of Kamloops.
While the court at the time was led to understand that Shearing had been motivated by robbery, he later revealed a much more sinister purpose.
Shearing — who now uses his mother’s maiden name Ennis — confirmed during his parole hearing at Bowden Institution on Tuesday that he shot and killed George and Edith Bentley, and their daughter and her husband, Jackie and Bob Johnson in August 1982.
He then held Johnson’s daughters, Janet, 13, and Karen, 11, captive in a cabin for six days, sexually assaulting Janet numerous times before also shooting and killing both girls.
The charred remains of all six victims were found in a burned-out car early in the school year, weeks after the family was reported missing.
Shearing said during his National Parole Board hearing that he had been motivated by violent sexual fantasies. He had revealed previously that he had shot and killed the parents and grandparents to gain access to their little girls.
He told the two-member parole board that he realized after six days that his actions had to come to a conclusion. “I knew, if I let them go, that I would be held accountable for everything I had done.”
Shearing apologized for the pain he has caused their families and friends and described the steps he has made to change his life and his desire to spend the balance of his time in the service of his community.
Supporting him were his wife Heather — a former support worker who married him 18 years ago — and a friend from his youth who promised to provide spiritual, material and financial support.
The parole board members gave Shearing credit for the steps he has taken, but said they don’t believe he is ready to be released into the community and are still concerned that he may offend again. Their decision was guided in part by the gravity of his offences, which were described in the decision as a sharp escalation of his previous crimes, including break-and-enter and thefts.
The decision states that the board still feels Shearing needs to complete a second high-intensity sex offenders program and that if he is ever to be released, it needs to be done gradually rather than directly from a medium-security prison into either day or full parole.
The board also found the plans he has made for his release to be detailed, but inadequate.
Surviving relatives and friends who attended the hearing said afterward that they don’t buy Shearing’s apology or his expressions of remorse, even though it was the first time he had ever told them he was sorry for what he did.
Especially painful is the need to reopen and relive the grief every time Shearing applies for parole, said the Bentleys’ granddaughter, Kelly Nielsen, one of the relatives who addressed the board in person during the hearing.
Nielsen spoke at Ennis’s first hearing as well, and said she will continue to speak at every hearing he has in the future. She said it takes about a year and a half of planning to prepare for each hearing, during which she and other members of her family suffer the same incredible grief they felt when the Bentleys’ and Johnsons’ car and remains were first found, 30 years ago.
She and other friends and family are now circulating a petition asking that the Canadian government make the period between parole applications longer than two years to give survivors and victims more of a breather between hearings.
Tamara Arishenkoff, who graduated from Grade 7 along with Janet Johnson just before the family disappeared, said she wants Ennis kept behind bars for the rest of his life.
“This wasn’t a mistake. This was a carefully thought out elimination of six people, 30 years ago. What do I think of David Shearing? I think he’s been where he deserves to be, for the next two years and for many more years after that.”