EDMONTON — A man convicted for his role in the shooting deaths of four Mounties in rural Alberta has been granted full parole effective immediately.
The Parole Board of Canada said Tuesday that Shawn Hennessey has been functioning well since he was allowed to live in a halfway house last fall.
The parole board emphasized that it could be difficult for Hennessey back in his home community of Barrhead, northwest of Edmonton, where some people may not make him welcome.
Hennessey, 35, said he understands that and will try his best to deal with confrontation.
“I have changed who I am,” Hennessey told the panel.
“I am a different person today.”
The parole board did include some conditions in its decision. Hennessey is not to contact any members of the victims’ families nor is he to travel to Lac la Biche, Alta. The mother of one of the RCMP officers lives there and she requested Hennessey not be allowed into the town.
There were no relatives of the constables present at the hearing in Edmonton. Hennessey sat between his wife and his parole officer, who both backed his release.
Hennessey and his brother-in-law, Dennis Cheeseman, pleaded guilty to manslaughter for giving James Roszko a gun and a ride to Roszko’s farm near Mayerthorpe in 2005.
Constables Peter Schiemann, Anthony Gordon, Brock Myrol and Leo Johnston had been guarding a Quonset hut on Roszko’s farm as part of a marijuana grow-op and automobile chop-shop investigation.
Roszko ambushed and killed the officers before killing himself.
Hennessey was sentenced in 2009 to 10 years and four months and Cheeseman was handed seven years and two months.
Cheeseman was granted statutory release in 2013 after serving two-thirds of his sentence. He later pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance for having prescription drugs that were not in his name. He was fined $1,000.
While in prison, Hennessey was allowed out on unescorted, temporary absences to visit his wife and two daughters. While on day parole, he visited them every weekend. He said he attended some of his youngest girl’s sporting events, cheering her on in the stands, and many people have supported him.
But not all. He had wanted to attend a parade in the town but officials asked him not to come. He respected the decision.
“The community probably isn’t going to welcome you with open arms,” said parole board member Marilyn Kenny.
“People have long memories … We can’t forget the victims because there are many.”
Hennessey said he thinks about the four dead officers and their families every day.
“I can’t imagine what they have to go through every day still,” he told the board. He added he can understand why one relative doesn’t want to run into him in her home community.
Hennessey said he used to be an immature, self-centred person, who did and sold drugs and hung around with unsavoury characters such as Roszko. He said he was scared and confused the night he dropped the killer off at the farm and persuaded his brother-in-law to join in.
“I should have done the right thing and phoned the RCMP,” he said.
“I could have changed so many things.”