HALIFAX — William Chandler Shrubsall was a hockey star. He was a pre-med student. He was a devoted son grieving the tragic loss of parents.
All false stories the high-IQ sexual predator and convicted killer would tell.
The truth is that Shrubsall was a convincing liar whose tales changed swiftly to suit his narcissistic goals.
A former girlfriend, victims, the police officer who discovered his identity and the judges who convicted him all recalled this enduring trait of manipulative storytelling.
It would help the American slip into a life in Halifax after he fled his trial for sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl in Niagara Falls, N.Y., in 1996 — arriving at a local homeless shelter in Nova Scotia just days after crossing the border illegally.
For two years — until his capture after sexually assaulting another young woman — he concealed his identity as an escaped felon who had battered his mother to death with a bat and had stalked women on the streets of Niagara County.
It’s this ability to disguise the truth that leaves Shrubsall’s victims and pursuers frightened and angered by a recent Parole Board of Canada decision to allow his release and deportation to Niagara County.
They say in interviews they’d hoped his dangerous offender designation of 2001, the result of over two months of hearings and dozens of witnesses, would keep him in jail for life.
“It is simply an absurd decision,” says T.C., a woman who was briefly his girlfriend until she realized the pattern of lies he’d been feeding her.
She met him on her street in November 1997. He quickly adapted himself to appear interested in her interests.
“His ability to be a chameleon is incredibly high,” she recalled.
“For instance, he told a lot of people in Halifax he was in medical school, because that would impress most people. He got a sense from me I was interested in the arts, so he said he was taking a masters in history.”
Still, her instinct was that something was “a little bit off,” and several incidents led her to realize even the name he was using, Ian Thor Green, was likely a fabrication. He has since legally renamed himself as Ethan Simon Templar MacLeod.
“He was also brazen,” she recalls. Shrubsall continued to stalk her in the last three weeks of February 1998 after she broke up with him and went to police.
Court records indicate Shrubsall let himself into T.C.’s apartment, without her permission, using a key she did not know he had.
He was advised to stay away, but persisted, turning up at her classes, walking back and forth in front of her apartment and looking into her windows.
He also used a number of false names when in Nova Scotia, residing at a fraternity house, where he had his telephone service hooked up under a false name, and receiving mail there under a number of aliases.
Weeks after his breakup with T.C., another side of Shrubsall’s character is documented in records kept in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia archives: Periods of raw rage.
“He’s in a class pretty much his own. He’s so smart, he’s so dangerous, he’s so unpredictable. He can turn on a dime and the rage that comes out of him is unbelievable,” said Tom Martin, the former Halifax police major crimes investigator who worked on his case for over three years.
There are boxes upon boxes of files of evidence describing his actions.
On Feb. 12, 1998, Shrubsall entered the shop where a young woman, referred to in court documents as T.D., worked. He wore dark clothing, a dark toque and mirrored sunglasses, and carried a duffle bag with an aluminum baseball bat.
He swung it twice, once hitting her arm so hard it caused a “billy stick” fracture, and then striking her on the head with the bat. “The force of the blow was so powerful that her skull was fractured and depressed into her brain,” notes the decision.
T.D. was found unconscious and foaming at the mouth, rushed to hospital and intubated, later undergoing neurosurgery to reconstruct her fractured skull with 12 metal plates and 50 metal screws.
Shrubsall stole a total of $120, and he also grabbed her wallet, stealing her cash.
The violence continued a few months later. On May 4, Shrubsall stalked another woman, T.J., after she left a bar in the small hours of the morning. “She had almost reached her destination when she sensed that someone was following her.”
She quickened her pace, but it was too late. Shrubsall grabbed her neck from behind.
She lost consciousness and Shrubsall dragged her into a driveway where he “savagely beat” her, pounding her face into the pavement.
On June 22, while on probation for his criminal harassment of his girlfriend, Shrubsall committed the aggravated sexual assault, forcible confinement and choking of another woman, K.C.
Martin remembers interviewing Shrubsall after he was arrested for that attack.
“We knew he was lying the minute he started talking to us,” he recalled.
“He gave a fanciful description of his mother and father. His father had died in a car accident and his mother had died in a fire up north. But there was nothing to corroborate these stories.”
In fact, Shrubsall had killed his mother; in fact, his father had died of cancer when he was 14.
“We told him, ‘You’re lying,’ again and again. It went on for weeks.”
Martin posted a picture of Shrubsall through the media and days later he had a call from New York State Police informing him of his suspect’s true identity.
Like T.C., Martin cannot comprehend the parole board decision, which is based partly on its reasoning that Shrubsall will be spending at least two years and four months in jail for his sexual assault of the 17-year-old before he can apply for parole.
Since Shrubsall was transferred last week, Niagara County’s district attorney is also seeking an additional jail term for Shrubsall’s flight from justice that could add several more years to that sentence.
There’s also a possibility the state district attorney can apply for an indefinite detention as his date of release approaches.
But Martin said he believes the Parole Board has been caught in the web of deception that has marked Shrubsall’s life.
“He’s a master manipulator. He’s thinking about something before it even takes place. In his mind, he will go over and go over and gauge his audience.”
The court files of Shrubsall’s two-month long dangerous offender file contains his letter of apology — two legal pages of eloquent, hand-written description of how he intended to pursue treatment he claimed he’d never had an opportunity to receive.
He apologizes to his aunt and other family members for his actions and says he “could not help but be moved,” by the testimony of the women he attacked.
But the sentencing judge, Felix Cacchione, seemed to accept little of it.
“His life was filled with examples of lying,” he wrote.
“On the night of his mother’s death, the offender lied to neighbours and to the police about a stranger entering the house and killing his mother.”
The judge noted that even while Shrubsall was awaiting trial for the third attack, he wrote to a former classmate from the University of Pennsylvania, saying he’d be travelling to Hawaii and wanted to meet with her, falsifying his achievements since graduating.
Cacchione wrote, ”(Shrubsall) is a very intelligent man. He has an I.Q. of 124 to 132, placing him in the superior range on intelligence. He has a faculty of reasoning, logic, and intellect well above the average person.”
He was also class valedictorian and stood first in his high school graduating year and is the graduate of a prestigious Ivy League American university.
“Unfortunately, he is also manipulative, extremely violent, sexually deviant and lacking a conscience,” Cacchione concluded, before designating him a dangerous offender.
“His intelligence and history of deceit and manipulation would, in my opinion, make community supervision very difficult if not impossible.”
One of the victims, K.C., said in an email to The Canadian Press that Shrubsall successfully “pulled the wool over the parole board’s eyes,” and is manipulating his way back into society.
“We had the opportunity as a country to ensure the safety of women on both sides of the border and we failed,” she said in an email. “When he becomes a free man and has a whole new set of victims I hope the parole board will then understand the complexity of what they have done.”
The parole board has declined comment on specific cases, but a spokeswoman says in an email its members “do a thorough risk assessment” for each case.