Day parole granted to woman convicted in Stefanie Rengel killing

KITCHENER, Ont. — A young woman who sexually blackmailed her boyfriend into killing a 14-year-old girl she saw as a rival more than a decade ago must report any relationships she has with men while living in a halfway house, the Parole Board of Canada said Tuesday as it granted her day parole for six months.

Melissa Todorovic will face a restriction on friendships and romantic relationships with men and must immediately disclose them to her parole officer, the board said after a hearing on the 26-year-old’s case.

Todorovic’s difficulties with relationships and her struggles with jealousy were scrutinized during a hearing at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont. — the women’s prison where she has been serving a sentence for orchestrating the killing of Stefanie Rengel in 2008.

Her parole officer, Angie Strome, said Todorovic would never have the opportunity to enter into a heterosexual romantic relationship while in the institution and has few options left in terms of programs at the facility.

The two-member parole panel found that while Todorovic still has work to do and should expect to continue counselling for a long time, she has made progress in understanding what led her at age 15 to order Rengel’s killing.

For years, Todorovic maintained she did not believe her then-boyfriend, David Bagshaw, would go through with the slaying. She told the panel Tuesday she now feels “horrible” for her actions.

“I never want to be that person again. I don’t want to harm anybody else,” Todorovic said quietly. “I wish I could take everything back. I take full responsibility for Stefanie’s death … if it wasn’t for me, Stefanie would be alive.”

The parole board panel noted that Todorovic had several chances to call off the plot, including a phone call with Bagshaw minutes before the attack.

“You didn’t try to stop it,” board member Michael Sanford said.

“I should have,” Todorovic replied.

Rengel’s mother, Patricia Hung, wept as the panel announced its decision. She said after the hearing that the outcome was disappointing, noting that Todorovic appeared largely emotionless even in expressing remorse.

“I felt it was a bit scripted,” Hung said, adding Todorovic has yet to apologize.

In a victim impact statement read during the hearing, Hung said that though her family may appear on the surface to have survived a “terrible tragedy” and come out stronger, they will never fully recover from the brutal murder,

“Once she murdered my daughter, something inside me broke,” Hung said. “Sometimes I think of it as a broken filter. I can no longer filter out intrusive fearful feelings. No amount of psychologist visits, exercise or prescriptions can stop this from happening.”

Hung also expressed doubts about Todorovic’s prospects for rehabilitation.

“I do not see a changed person in Melissa. I see someone who has become more cunning, hoping with those few words of so-called remorse that she is fooling those who should have the experience to see through them,” she said. “I do not hear empathy here, except for herself.”

Todorovic was convicted in 2009 for masterminding the murder of Rengel, a girl she had never met but who became the focus of her jealousy.

Rengel had briefly dated Bagshaw years earlier and Todorovic threatened to break up with him or withhold sex unless he killed his former flame. He eventually carried out her command, stabbing Rengel six times and leaving her to die in a snowbank outside her house on New Year’s Day, 2008.

In 2009, Todorovic was sentenced as an adult to life in prison with no chance of parole for seven years, the maximum adult sentence for someone her age. She challenged the ruling but it was upheld on appeal.

The appeal delayed Todorovic’s application for parole, even though she became eligible for day parole in 2013 and full parole two years later, the panel said Tuesday.

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