EDMONTON — An Alberta judge has ruled that a prostitute killer and violent sex offender is dangerous and must stay in prison indefinitely.
The decision in Court of Queen’s Bench on Thursday is the end of a legal odyssey for Thomas Svekla, 42, a one-time mechanic who once boasted about being a serial killer.
The dangerous offender designation is used in extreme cases against those whose history of violent crimes, particularly against children, and whose risk of reoffending are such that keeping them in jail is the only way to protect others from them.
Once designated a dangerous offender, a convict’s file is reviewed by the National Parole Board seven years after conviction and every two years after that. The odds of release are historically slim.
Svekla’s lawyer, Mona Duckett, had agreed that her client was dangerous. But she said he had promised to rehabilitate, so she argued he should be declared a long-term offender instead. That means he would have eventually been released on parole and closely supervised in the community for up to 10 years. Any breach of the law would have landed him back in prison.
Crown prosecutor Ashley Finlayson told court that Svekla’s history of violent sex attacks showed he cannot control his dangerous impulses, a key element in a dangerous offender application.
At the hearing, five women from his past testified to his violent behaviour, which included choking and punching.
Svekla is already serving a 17-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2008 in the second-degree murder of prostitute Theresa Innes. But his violent record of allegations and convictions stretches back much farther than that.
He grew up in Vegreville, east of Edmonton, the youngest of seven in a violent home. He turned to drugs and alcohol early.
When he was 14, he pushed a schoolmate against a wall, pinning her there, and tried to strip off her clothes. She testified against him at the dangerous offender hearing.
Three years later, he got into a fight with a friend’s sister. He chased her through her house, pinned her to the floor, choked her, tried to tear her pants off and rape her, but fled when he thought others would show up. He later bragged to a friend she was the first to see “the bogeyman.”
At age 25, he was convicted of assaulting a prostitute.
When he was 27, he abused a five-year-old girl who was a ward of his girlfriend. Court heard he was brazenly cruel to the girl. He once attacked her under a blanket in the living room while other foster children sat nearby watching cartoons on TV. He’d also attacked her on the couch or in her bed, stopping in the middle of one encounter to answer a phone call.
He was also convicted of molesting the girlfriend’s natural daughter, who was nine at the time. The girlfriend told court Svekla later phoned her from prison lockup and tauntingly told her the foster child was better in bed than her pre-teen daughter.
Svekla wasn’t charged and convicted with the attacks on the children for more than a decade when he came to the attention of police investigating a string of prostitute slayings in and around the Alberta capital.
In the meantime, his itinerant lifestyle continued into his 30s, a hazy world of drinking binges and cocaine jags.
In 2004, at age 36, he drove out to the bushland on Edmonton’s eastern outskirts with a friend to smoke crack. There, he told police, he came across the corpse of 19-year-old prostitute Rachel Quinney. Her bug-eaten body was splayed out nude, face up, her breasts and genitals cut off. Police were suspicious but cleared him for lack of evidence.
He then moved 700 kilometres north to the remote Alberta community of High Level where, a year later, he attacked a woman who had invited him for drinks in her basement suite. At trial, the victim said he grabbed her by the throat, pulled her hair, sexually assaulted her, threatened to break her neck and hide her body where it would never be found.
By 2006, Svekla had befriended a prostitute named Theresa Innes. The 36-year-old mother of two would prowl the High Level bars, looking to sell her body to pay for drugs. Friends remembered seeing her smoke crack with Svekla.
In March of that year, her mother reported her missing. By May, Svekla had left High Level and returned to visit family in Edmonton. He brought with him a heavy hockey bag. He told everyone it contained compost worms, yet he guarded it jealously. His sister became suspicious. One day, when he was out, she opened the bag to find the remains of Innes. She called police. The body was trussed up so tightly with metal wire and coils, it took the coroner an hour to free it for inspection.
Svekla’s murder trial in 2008 revealed a violent man whose world was wrapped in lies. He proclaimed innocence and persecution, yet also bragged about being a serial killer like British Columbia’s infamous Robert Pickton, who lured women from Vancouver’s East Side and murdered them on his pig farm.
Svekla was a moth drawn to the flame of his notoriety. When he was arrested for Innes’s murder, handcuffed and paraded to the squad car, he smiled and waved for the media cameras. As he waited for his trial, he granted multiple media interviews against the advice of his lawyers. He openly fantasized about the book and movie deals that would flow from his exoneration
Police charged him in Quinney’s death, too, but the evidence was no better in 2008 than it was in 2006 and he was acquitted.