Canada’s Ken And Barbie Killers
Karel and Dorothy Homolka were delighted to be the parents of three beautiful daughters: Karla, Lori, and Tammy Lyn. They established their home in the city of St. Catharines, Ontario, and their lifestyle was wholly regular and humble up until the night of Christmas Eve in 1990.
Since she was a child, Karla Leanne has always been fantastically enchanted with the idea of happily ever after. She amassed a collection of Barbie dolls, dressing and undressing them, playing out her own little fairytales in her imagination. She always dreamt of the perfect husband, perfect home and the perfect life – just like Barbie. She spent many tranquil hours playing in her own inner world of dreams, which turned into horrific nightmares.
On one hand, dolls represent a young child’s aspirations and dreams of the future, allowing them to create vivid worlds and relationships by outfitting the doll in fancy garments and playing out romantic fantasies. On the other hand, dolls are also employed in certain settings, such as those with one-way mirrors, where children may be encouraged to enact their negative experiences on the doll, which can then inform experts about potential mistreatment. However, mistreatment isn’t only limited to children alone.
At 17 years old, the petite blonde’s life took a fateful turn when she encountered her now-infamous partner, Paul Kenneth Bernardo, at a hotel restaurant. Karla happened to be staying at the same hotel for a business convention with a friend from her pet store. During their time at the restaurant, Paul and his friend joined the girls’ table, leading to a steamy flirtation between Karla and Paul. Eventually, Karla and Paul retired to her hotel room where they engaged in a passionate lovemaking session, while their friends were left feeling uncomfortable and out of place, awkwardly observing.
Despite the significant age gap of six years, Karla’s fondness for Paul only grew stronger. He possessed all the qualities she had been seeking in a partner: handsome, charming, accomplished, and devoted to his career. In her eyes, he was the perfect candidate to fulfill her lifelong romantic aspirations. Even if they had initial misgivings about their daughter’s choice of partner, Karl and Dorothy Homolka soon embraced Paul as a member of their household and welcomed him with open arms. So much so that Dorothy affectionately referred to Paul as her “weekend son.”
Unfortunately, a “happily ever after” was never in the cards for Paul. He had endured mental and emotional abuse from his mother and developed voyeuristic urges during his teenage years. These tendencies eventually escalated into stalking women at parks and bus stops, forcibly placing them in bushes where they could be sexually assaulted. In fact, Paul’s criminal history dated back to May 4, 1987- the date of his first known rape. By the time he had begun dating Karla, he had already committed numerous sexual crimes against women and earned the moniker of the “Scarborough Rapist” by September 1995. When he would capture his victims, he would demand that they call him “King” and repeat the phrase that he could do whatever he wanted with their bodies. His friends recognized his likeness in a composite sketch released by the authorities and his DNA was taken for processing. However, given that forensic science was still in its early stages at the time, the results would take significantly longer to be returned.
According to Bernardo, he broached the topic of his history as a rapist with Karla early on in their relationship. Allegedly, Karla’s response to this revelation was that it would be “cool.” In an attempt to impress her older, more experienced partner, Karla even went so far as to present him with a pair of handcuffs and suggested that they experiment with bondage. She allowed him to gag her, put a dog collar around her neck, and engage in strangulation play during their sexual encounters. Despite her willingness to abide by Paul’s desires, her sexually adventurous nature did not fully satisfy his appetite; he was interested in virgins.
Karla Homolka’s past sexual experiences were not enough to win her boyfriend, Paul Bernardo’s forgiveness. In fact, when Paul expressed his desire to take Karla’s youngest sister, Tammy’s virginity, Karla reluctantly complied. According to sources close to the couple, Paul held Karla responsible for being unable to give him her own virginity, and thus demanded that she provide him with Tammy’s instead. It was an ultimatum of sorts, as Paul made it clear that if Karla did not acquiesce, he would take Tammy by force. With a growing rap sheet and a penchant for violence, it seemed as though there was little Karla could do to deny Paul what he wanted.
“She had really thought this thing with Tammy through. After all, she did not want to kill her own sister; she just wanted to knock her out and give her to Paul for Christmas. They sedated animals before they put them to sleep for surgery, so it should be all right to do it to her sister. There was some risk without the proper equipment — she would have to put the halothane on a cloth and hold it over Tammy’s face — but she would make sure Tammy had plenty of air and check her breathing regularly.”Stephen Williams in his book “Unknown Darkness“
A truly organized rape, as only a thoughtful sister could plan. Maybe even the most thought out and organized rape ever.
As an employee of a veterinary clinic, Karla Homolka had free access to a variety of surgical-quality sedatives. It was Halothane, a powerful inhalational general anaesthetic that she observed being used by the veterinarian to euthanize animals pre-surgery, that ultimately caught her attention. Without hesitation, she stole a significant supply of the drug and set into motion an unfathomable plan. On December 23, 1990, Paul Bernardo informed Karla that “we’re doing it tonight,” signalling the beginning of their heinous actions.
With a calculated plan in place, Karla Homolka added sleeping pills powdered to a fine consistency into her baby sister’s spaghetti, a specialty of the elder sibling. The family indulged in Christmas cheer and no one raised an alarm when Tammy began to speak incoherently and saw double due to her age and lack of alcohol experience. When the rest of the family decided to retire for the night, Tammy expressed a desire to watch a movie with Karla and Paul. They settled on “Lisa and the Devil” and watched approximately 20 minutes before Tammy passed out unconscious. In no time at all, Karla and her partner wasted no time in exploiting their plan.
In a horrific and sickening turn of events, Paul Bernardo subjected Tammy Lyn to repeated instances of rape while his girlfriend, Karla Homolka, held a rag soaked in Halothane over the young girl’s nose and mouth. It was imperative that Tammy did not wake up while Paul was assaulting her. Despite Karla’s pleas for him to use a condom and finish quickly, Paul disregarded her requests. After he had finished ravaging Tammy, he then pressured Karla into committing the sexually explicit act of oral sex with her unconscious sister – an initial act of refusal could not deter Paul’s persistence.
Upon completion of the horrific attack on Tammy Lyn, Paul Bernardo had captured the entire ordeal on film. However, the couple now faced a significant predicament. Tammy began vomiting and choking, ultimately ceasing to breathe at all. Karla wished her sister hadn’t eaten before this event, but Karla knew what to do. She did what they did in the veterinary clinic. She held her sister upside down to try to clear her throat, just like an animal.
The only problem was that Tammy choked to death. Their amateur attempts to revive her failed so they dressed her, hid their drugs and camera and called an ambulance. The first that Tammy and Karla’s parents knew of this tragedy was when they heard the ambulance pull up to the house. Everybody was led to believe that Tammy had died from accidentally choking on her vomit. The autopsy procedures conducted on her remains were lamentably poor, and hence her untimely demise was deemed a regrettable accident. This outcome allowed Paul and Karla to get off scott free and to continue preying upon young virgins. With Tammy no good to him anymore, Paul needed a replacement.
The Nuptial Present
Karla Homolka’s unyielding obsession with her partner Paul Bernardo’s contentment had reached an unprecedented level. The fear of losing the wild and enthralling man who was soon to become her husband consumed her thoughts. With any signs of boredom or distraction from Paul, Karla resorted to finding new methods or even individuals to excite him. Blaming Karla for Tammy Lyn’s death, Paul repeatedly complained that he could no longer engage in sexual acts with her. Thus, Karla began an attempt to replace her deceased sister with someone as young and innocent, eventually settling on a teenage girl resembling Tammy, whom we shall name Jane. In what can only be described as a twisted wedding gift to Paul, Jane would become the chosen replacement for Tammy.
Fascinated by Karla Homolka’s stunning personality and refined way of living, Jane found herself idolizing her new-found friend. Overcome with gratitude, Jane was quick to accept Karla’s invitation to the 57 Bayview home that Karla shared with Paul Bernardo. The first night at the home was far from typical, as Karla took Jane out for dinner and warded her with hours of charismatic conversation alongside sweet alcoholic beverages that had been laced with Halcion tablets. The effects of the potent drug took over, and Jane passed out, slipping into a deep sleep.
With Jane now in deep slumber, Karla Homolka placed a call to her partner Paul Bernardo to reveal his long-awaited surprise gift. Upon seeing how remarkably Jane resembled Tammy Lyn, Paul was inexplicably pleased, albeit mildly apprehensive when he recognized the same drug used to subdue Tammy. Karla, however, assuaged his concerns, vowing complete control over the situation.
With Jane now unclothed, Paul Bernardo resorted to using his camera to capture Karla Homolka’s sexual advances on the unconscious girl. Once done, Paul went on to take Jane’s virginity, an event that he recorded for posterity. Subsequently, Paul took part in his beloved act of brutal anal sex. Thankfully, Jane remained deep asleep throughout the entire despicable ordeal due to the strength of the drugs.
Having concluded their savage session, it was left to Karla Homolka to clean the blood off the battered 15-year-old Jane and prepare her for a night of rest. The following morning, in evident discomfort and exceedingly nauseous, Jane met Paul Bernardo for what she believed was their first encounter. Unaware that she had been subjected to a repugnant act, Jane was incapable of comprehending what truly transpired during her visit with the notorious pair.
Though pleased by the spoils of Jane’s virginity, Paul Bernardo began experiencing reservations about his future with Karla Homolka. Despite being fascinated by her willingness to please him, he grew increasingly disillusioned with the idea of marrying a woman who had already passed her 21st birthday. Moreover, Paul realized that Karla was not the virgin he lusted, further complicating his feelings towards her.
Less than two months after Tammy’s death, Karla wrote the following in a letter to her friend, Debbie Purdie:
“Fuck my parents. They are being so stupid. Only thinking of themselves. My father doesn’t even want us to have a wedding anymore. He thinks we should just go to City Hall. Screw that! We’re having a good time. If he wants to sit at home and be miserable, he’s welcome to.
He hasn’t worked except for one day since Tammy died. He’s wallowing in his own misery and fucking me! It sounds awful on paper (but I know you’ll really see what I’m saying).
Tammy always said last year that she wanted a forest green Porsche for her 16th birthday. Now my dad keeps saying: ‘I would have bought it for her, if I’d only known.’ That’s bull. If he really felt like that he’d be paying for my wedding because I could die tomorrow, or next year, or whenever?
He’s such a liar.”Karla Homolka – Letter to Debbie
Although he was apprehensive, he proceeded and tied the knot with Karla in a grand, extravagant wedding. They had all the necessities for the perfect wedding – the old church in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and the picturesque white horses with the carriage, as well as a toast to happiness with champagne, a sit-down dinner for one hundred and fifty people consisting of veal-stuffed pheasant at Queen’s Landing – no expense was spared.
Paul paid great attention to all the elements of Karla’s wedding, from her $2,000 dress, to her hairstyle and the food; he even insisted for “love, honour and obey” to be included in her vows. Under no circumstances would he agree to be pronounced “husband and wife,” insisting instead on being referred to as “man and wife” by the minister.
Moving up to Murder, In a twisted display of power and sadism
After tying the knot, Karla and Paul Bernardo moved into their residence on Bayview Avenue in St. Catharines. Paul needed to bring in extra money and began trafficking cigarettes across the border, prompting him to get his hands on license plates to obscure his recurrent trips from Canada to the United States. This need brought him in contact with his initial murder victim, Leslie Mahaffy.
Leslie Mahaffy was a troubled youth. Her independent and assertive temperament may have contributed to her issues, which included disregarding curfews, promiscuity, ditching classes, and even shoplifting. Her parents took a strict attitude when Leslie did not follow their rules.
On the evening of Friday, June 14, 1991, Leslie went out with her friends and stayed out past her curfew. At two o’clock in the morning, she suddenly realized that she had been locked out of her home. She then called her friend asking if she could spend the night, but her friend thought her mother may not approve considering the late hour. In response, Leslie said she was going back to try and wake up her parents.
Leslie had actually gone back to her home to see if there was any way to get in without waking her parents. With the worst possible luck imaginable, she encountered Paul Bernardo who was prowling around the neighborhood looking for license plates to steal.
He pulled a knife on Leslie Mahaffy and forced her to go in his car.
Upon capturing his next prey, Paul Bernardo brought the 14-year-old Leslie home while Karla Homolka slept soundly. In what would become a recurring pattern of horrific violation, Paul proceeded to film Leslie in a vulnerable state, blindfolded and exposed. When Karla emerged to witness the aftermath, she was furious with Paul for using their best champagne glasses during his perverse pursuit. Nevertheless, Karla gradually succumbed to the norms of their sickening relationship, embracing her role as an obliging wife per Paul’s demands.
In a twisted display of power and sadism, Paul Bernardo provided his wife Karla Homolka with meticulous and elaborate instructions on how to engage in sexual acts with their captive, Leslie. More akin to a film director directing a critical scene than to a human being engaging in sexual intercourse, Paul demanded that every moment be executed with precision for the ongoing videotape recording of their exploitation. Karla followed her husband’s orders without hesitation, participating in an initial prelude before making way for Paul’s more violent advances. While Karla filmed the abhorrent proceedings, Paul carried out brutal anal penetration that caused Leslie to scream out in agony.
However, Paul’s savage actions did not cease there, as he further escalated his attacks ultimately leading to Leslie’s untimely demise. Bernardo beat, raped and sodomized her for about 24 hours before strangling her with an electrical cord. dispose of the evidence, the prosecutor said, Bernardo then butchered Mahaffy’s body in his basement with an electric circular saw, encased the body parts in cement blocks and dumped them in a nearby lake. “It’s done,” he told his fiancee and accomplice, Karla Homolka, when he picked her up after work that day.
During the evening of June 29, 1991, a husband and wife were canoeing on Lake Gibson when they stumbled upon a concrete block that contained pieces of animal flesh. Upon returning to the site at a later time with the assistance of a fisherman, the couple successfully extracted the concrete block and began a closer examination. Upon scrutinizing the concrete block, it became apparent that it contained the calf and foot of a young woman, cementing the horrifying realization that some heinous crime had taken place. The discovery immediately prompted law enforcement officials to initiate a thorough investigation, in a bid to uncover and unearth critical leads surrounding this heinous act.
In a flurry of activity, law enforcement officials descended upon the area following the discovery of five concrete blocks that had been abandoned in the shallow waters of Lake Gibson. Based on preliminary assessments, authorities deduced that the perpetrator of this heinous act was unfamiliar with the vicinity as they had not taken cautionary measures such as disposing the concrete blocks over the bridge where they may have remained unnoticed long-term.Shortly after this revelation, investigators made another critical discovery – the torso of a young woman had been found in the water.
Upon further inspection and based on expert analysis, it was determined that the body parts that had been encased in the concrete block had been forcefully cut from her torso using a power saw. With the lead provided by Leslie’s unique braces, detectives were able to identify the victim and launched an intense investigation into this gruesome crime.
Jane was far from the ideal sex slave.
In the absence of his peculiar indulgences, Paul Bernardo’s temperament began to grow increasingly unstable. This unacceptable behavior prompted his dutiful wife, Karla Homolka to call upon Jane Doe once again. However, Jane’s role as a sex slave proved far from optimal due to her protest against engaging in intercourse with Paul, claiming to have been a virgin. Consequently, Paul resorted to accepting only oral sexual practices from Jane.
The situation then escalated further when she divulged this information to her horse-riding instructor, who soon after informed Jane’s mother, causing them to have fewer opportunities with Jane. On one particular night, despite being supplied with halothane to subdue the young girl, things went awry, and Jane had trouble breathing. This nearly resulted in tragedy and naturally, Paul and Karla were filled with fear and dread following the sequence of events.
Not only that, Paul was becoming annoyed with his new wife. He questioned her competence with the halothane. Karla was frantic. She had to do something to put some new romance back into their relationship.
Following a brief period of respite, during which another young woman acquiesced to their desires, eventually moving away to Youngstown, Ohio, left Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka bereft of their preferred sources of entertainment once more. This predicament invariably strained their already tenuous relationship further, causing unbearable tensions for Karla.
On November 30, 1991, Terri Anderson, a vibrant and attractive fourteen-year-old girl, went missing. Her whereabouts remained unknown for a six-month period until she was discovered in the water at Port Dalhousie. Despite the forensic challenges of examining a body that had been submerged in water for such a prolonged time, there was a conspicuous absence of any evidence indicating foul play according to the Medical Examiner’s report. Nevertheless, the coroner’s conclusion was that Terri likely died from drowning, potentially induced by her consumption of beer and LSD.
The coroner’s verdict regarding Terri Anderson’s death was met with significant controversy, particularly concerning its relation to the heinous abduction and killing of Leslie Mahaffy. The question as to whether or not the striking young girl was an additional victim of Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo’s monstrous exploits has yet to be conclusively determined.
Kristen French Abducted from church parking lot
In April 1992, Kristin French, a highly popular and attractive teenager, was abducted from a parking lot outside a church. Karla Homolka allured the unsuspecting girl towards their car under the guise of needing directions. Once in close proximity, Paul Bernardo brandished a sharp knife and forcibly pulled her into the rear of the vehicle while Karla held Kristen down. From the outset, the nefarious couple understood that Kristen’s fate was to be sealed. The young girl’s observations regarding their appearance, home address, and even their pet dog were cause for concern, and they recognized the need to prevent her from realizing the danger she was in. This was especially critical as Kristen proved to be physically imposing, notwithstanding her relative youth compared to Karla.
Throughout her traumatic ordeal, Kristen French demonstrated remarkable ingenuity and presence of mind in attempting to accommodate the twisted whims of her captors. She recognized that adhering to their heinous and demeaning demands was the sole means for her to remain alive, but the further along she proceeded, the more severe the intensity of the torture inflicted upon her. In particular, Paul Bernardo embodied an alarming escalation of sadistic cruelty as it pertained to his treatment of Kristen, which is best illustrated in an excerpt from Stephen Williams in his book Unknown Darkness featuring activity captured on videotape by the couple.
“‘I’m going to piss on you, okay? Then I’m going to shit on you.’ Paul said in a whisper… Kristen did not move, even when he slapped her face with his semi-erect penis.
“‘Don’t make me mad. Don’t make me hurt you,’ he said, urging her to smile when he rubbed his groin into her face.
“‘Don’t worry, I won’t piss in your face.’
“Finally, he stood over her and urinated. Then he moved. Turning his buttocks into her face, he squatted over her face and tried to defecate on her without success.
“‘You’re a f–king piece of shit. But I like you,’ he told her. ‘You look good covered in piss.'”Excerpt from Stephen Williams in his book Unknown Darkness
The degrading and brutalizing treatment inflicted upon Kristen French lasted approximately forty-eight hours, all of which was meticulously recorded on video for the continued entertainment of her captors. A similar ordeal of rapes, beatings, verbal humiliation, and eventual strangulation with the same electrical cord followed the same fate of Leslie Mahaffy. However, Kristen’s ultimate fate represented the most egregious indignity of them all. The discovery of her naked corpse on April 30, 1992 in a roadside ditch led investigators to mistakenly assume that her murder had no correlation with Leslie’s.
Green Ribbon Task Force
As Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka continued with their reign of terror in St. Catharines, the epicenter of the police investigation now became Niagara Falls. The discovery of Leslie Mahaffy’s remains elicited the leadership of Superintendent Vince Bevan in the resultant probe. Once Kristen French’s murder was added to the grim toll, the Government of Ontario created the Green Ribbon Task Force. This task force established hotlines and installed a vital operations center just outside St. Catharines while requesting forensic experts from the revered American FBI to provide their invaluable expertise.
After Kristen French’s disappearance, an eyewitness recalled observing a violent altercation taking place inside the vehicle at the scene. Although the witness lacked proficiency in differentiating between various automobile models, she believed that it was a Camaro. In light of this information, Superintendent Vince Bevan directed the tracking and tracing of all Camaro owners within the area as part of his investigation.
As the police inquiry proceeded, a tip called attention once more to Paul Bernardo’s involvement in the crimes. Two law enforcement officers visited him at his residence located at 57 Bayview. During the questioning, Paul exhibited extreme cordiality and was forthcoming about his prior identification as a suspect based on his facial resemblance to the police-issued composite portrait. Notably, the police remarked upon Paul’s exceptional physical appearance and impeccable maintenance of a spick-and-span home environment. Moreover, observations made during the visit revealed that the car Paul drove was a Nissan model, bearing striking dissimilarity to a Camaro automobile.
Despite their best efforts, the two officers liaising with Detective Steve Irwin of the Toronto Police Service encountered multiple obstacles when trying to gain clarity about the inquiry into the case of the Scarborough Rapist. After receiving a message from the duo, Irwin took eight days to respond, revealing that he had not yet received definitive test results concerning Paul Bernardo’s blood and saliva samples, indicating that Bernardo’s status as a suspect remained unresolved. While Irwin offered some ancillary information to the task force, crucial insights such as outcomes obtained from promising leads furnished by Bernardo’s confidants, a woman’s account about being stalked and police reports submitted by Jennifer, his former girlfriend were conspicuously absent. Consequently, Bernardo remained unscrutinized as a prime suspect.
Remarkably, several years had elapsed since blood analysis was obtained from Paul Bernardo when the forensic laboratory in Toronto, in February 1993, finally conducted a meticulous evaluation of the blood samples. The outcomes of the tests yielded irrefutable evidence that confirmed Bernardo as the perpetrator responsible for the rape of the three women victims, with semen samples from each of them providing compelling DNA evidence against him.
The irony is not lost on the fact that had the forensic laboratory expedited its analysis and yielded a conviction, Paul Bernardo may have been behind bars serving time for his heinous crimes rather than terrorizing even more women and committing the unforgivable murders of several schoolgirls. Despite this unfortunate turn of events, Detective Irwin’s determination to apprehend Bernardo remained steadfast, as he initiated intense surveillance of Bernardo. However, his efforts were quickly overshadowed by earth-shattering news that Bernardo faced assault charges filed by Karla, his wife, in St. Catharines.
There has long been concern among experts that if a child plays with their toys in an overtly violent manner, there is cause to monitor their human interactions. Paul, past childhood years though he was, was no exception.n the summer of 1992, Paul’s abusive conduct towards his wife Karla posed a significant threat to his future. Despite her previous tolerance towards Paul’s erratic behavior, Karla reached her breaking point after becoming a punching bag for him. Yet, even after bearing the brunt of two black eyes and severe bruises, Karla remained stoically loyal. His attacks on his Barbie bride intensified from verbal abuse to assault, and in January 1993 Karla visited the emergency room, porcelain skin marred by bruising and ribs broken.
Karla’s parents persuaded her to flee from Paul and take refuge at the home of a friend of her sister Lori, who was married to a Toronto police officer that relief came her way. As the DNA sample Paul had given two years earlier was finally processed, linking him directly to the case of the Scarborough Rapist. The scene was set for a tête-à-tête between Karla, the police and officers who were working the murder file.
By early February, with the police investigation of Paul escalating, both the Toronto police and the Ontario Green Ribbon Task Force sought an interview with Karla. Besides wanting to fingerprint her, they aspired to make inquiries about a Mickey Mouse watch that bore remarkable similarity to Kristen French’s watch.
Karla underwent an extensive interview session lasting almost five hours, with several Toronto detectives present. The nature of the questions posed to her only heightened Karla’s unease as she realized that the police had managed to connect the Scarborough rapes to the St. Catharines murders. Given the severity of the situation, Karla understandably felt overwhelmed and divulged to her uncle that Paul was the notorious serial rapist who committed horrific crimes against Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy.
Karla eventually retained the services of a renowned defense attorney, George Walker, following her involvement in the heinous crimes. Her previous work as a veterinary assistant and exceptional care for the cancer-afflicted Dalmation of the said lawyer paved the way for their professional relationship. Having met with her on several occasions, Walker gleaned that Karla’s version of events did not necessarily paint her as an innocent victim of Paul Bernardo.
However, he remained ignorant of her complete role in the horrific transgressions. With the prospect of immunity in exchange for absolute cooperation mooted, Walker was uncertain about the possibility and what plea bargain could be negotiated on his client’s behalf.
In mid-February, Bernardo was arrested in conjunction with both the Scarborough rapes and the murders of Mahaffy and French. Karla was shocked and afraid. She assuaged her anxieties with large amounts of painkillers and alcohol.
The search warrants for Paul and Karla’s residence, conducted on February 19, culminated in the discovery of an overwhelming amount of compelling evidence. Paul had meticulously documented a written account of each of the Scarborough rapes that had occurred, in addition to owning an extensive collection of books and videos centered around sexually deviant content, pornography, and serial murderers.
Among the significant findings at the Bernardo residence, was a short home video that hinted that more than one individual in the household had deviant proclivities. The graphic footage explicitly depicted Karla engaging in enthusiastic sexual activity with two women, extensively showcasing her apparent fondness for same-sex encounters. A week later, prominent defense attorney George Walker and Murray Segal, a plea-bargaining specialist for the attorney general, held discussions regarding a potential deal for Karla. The proposed agreement included a twelve-year prison sentence for each of the two victims – Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy – which would be served concurrently.
Supposing good behavior, Karla could become eligible for parole in just over three years. To bolster her chances, the government even agreed to advocate on Karla’s behalf by contacting the parole board and highlighting the significance of her testimony against Paul. Furthermore, Segal exhibited a willingness to try and ensure that Karla served out her sentence in a psychiatric hospital rather than in a conventional prison setting. The trial itself was expected to be relatively brief, with Karla electing to forego her right to a preliminary hearing.
As part of the agreed-upon deal, Karla was obligated to reveal the complete truth regarding her contributions to the heinous crimes and disclose any pertinent information she knew. Without any hesitation, Karla gave her consent for the arrangement, which would ultimately enable her to benefit from a significantly reduced sentence. In early March, Karla underwent an evaluation at a psychiatric hospital. During this time, she was prescribed heavy medication; however, she requested higher dosages. Eventually, Karla mustered up the courage to write a letter of profound significance to her parents:
Dear Mom, Dad and Lori,
This is the hardest letter I’ve ever had to write and you’ll probably all hate me once you read it. I’ve kept this inside myself for so long and I just can’t lie to you any more. Both Paul and I are responsible for Tammy’s death. Paul was “in love” with her and wanted to have sex with her. He wanted me to help him. He wanted me to get sleeping pills from work to drug her with. He threatened me and physically and emotionally abused me when I refused.
No words I can say can make you understand what he put me through. So stupidly I agreed to do as he said. But something maybe the combination of drugs and the food she ate that night caused her to vomit. I tried so hard to save her. I am so sorry. But no words I can say can bring her back I would gladly give my life for hers. I don’t expect you to ever forgive me, for I will never forgive myself.Karla — XOXO
Creating a Tone
The eagerly anticipated trial of Karla Homolka began on June 28, 1993 and created a flurry of media attention. Burnside and Cairns described the defendant’s overall demeanour in vivid detail:
“Karla sat unemotionally in the courtroom, donning a green jacket over an excessively large, baggy one-piece green dress that did little to flatter her slender shoulders. She completed the outfit with black heels adorned with a slight heel. The attire she chose for this occasion was notably different from her previous court appearance, in which she wore a skirt and blazer resembling a schoolgirl’s uniform. Despite her matronly appearance, her fashion choices starkly contrasted with the deep-red lipstick, excessive application of makeup, and false eyelashes framing her face. To those observing, Karla appeared akin to a mature Lolita.”Deadly Innocence: The True Story of Paul Bernardo, Karla Homolka, and the Schoolgirl Murders by Scott Burnside & Alan Cairns
Dr. Malcolm, the appointed psychologist, played a significant role in shaping the parameters of the plea-bargain agreement by producing Karla’s clinical assessment report. The report provided valuable insight into Karla’s state of mind during the time of the offenses. In his professional opinion, Dr. Malcolm concluded that although Karla was aware of the ongoing events, she was rendered entirely powerless and unable to intervene on her behalf or anyone else’s. Her extreme apprehension had impaired her ability to take prompt action subsequently resulting in unwavering subservience.
At the end of the trial, the media people left, allowed only to report a few of the details so that the jury pool that would be selected in the future for Paul’s trial would not be tainted by information they heard or read before the trial.
Expecting a public outcry over the plea bargain, Murray Segal chose to make a statement:
“Why not a greater penalty in light of the horrendous facts? Without her, the true state of affairs might never be known. A guilty plea is the traditional hallmark of remorse. Her age, her lack of criminal record, the abuse and the influence of her husband, and her somewhat secondary role were factors. She’s unlikely to re-offend.”
Karla left the trial after receiving the agreed sentence and prepared herself for what was sure to be an ordeal — the trial of her husband, Paul Bernardo.
Paul Bernardo’s trial endured considerable delays due to multiple legal complications that arose over the course of two years following his arrest. One critical reason for these setbacks surfaced when Bernardo placed Ken Murray, his original attorney, in a challenging and ethical dilemma.
Bernardo entrusted Murray with the explicit videos that he and Karla had produced, with the intention that they would never be used as evidence against them. However, unbeknownst to Bernardo, the prosecution already knew about the tapes after receiving information from Karla and wiretapping Murray’s conversations with Bernardo. The mounting pressure eventually forced Murray’s hand, leading him to turn over the videos to the prosecution and abandon the case. Subsequently, seasoned defense lawyer John Rosen took over as Bernardo’s legal representation. Such circumstances alone caused a substantial one-year delay in commencing the trial.
In May of 1995, Bernardo’s trial began in Judge Patrick LeSage’s courtroom with the videotapes as critical pieces of evidence. Bernardo faced two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated sexual assault, two counts of forcible confinement, two counts of kidnapping, and one count of performing an indignity on a human body.
For two years, information about the case had been sealed, although sordid details had leaked out in the American press. Copies of newspapers were smuggled into Canada. Prosecutor Ray Houlahan opened the trial with a full-day story of Karla’s life as a victim of the dominating sadist, a brain-washed, frightened accomplice to the most degrading criminal acts. Crown prosecutor Ray Houlahan began with a segment showing Karla naked, masturbating, with the camera focused on her vagina.
Nick Pron in Lethal Marriage describes the electrifying effect the video had on the courtroom:
“Gasps of surprise and disgust, perhaps even shock, along with plenty of embarrassed giggles, could be heard throughout the courtroom as the camera lingered on Homolka’s exposed body for several minutes as she stimulated herself… For the previous two years, ever since her arrest, Homolka’s face had been almost as well known as the prime minister’s. She had been seen on television in footage taken at her wedding, with her friends, and at her trial. But few people in the courtroom that day were expecting to see a triple X-rated tape, a close study of the country’s most infamous woman in a variety of sexually explicit positions.”
Houlahan stated that the conversations in the videos were orchestrated by Bernardo, demonstrating his power over Karla. As various recordings of Leslie, Kristen, and Jane were presented, the undeniable and powerful proof of Paul Bernardo’s perverse behaviour was displayed to the jury. On top of that, Karla was summoned to explain to the jurors the scenes and discourse they had just encountered.
The devastating testimony of Paul Bernardo’s spouse, Karla Homolka, portrayed a disturbingly familiar pattern of sexual exploitation and abuse that matched his prior behaviour with former girlfriends. According to her account, Karla was willing and eager to comply with the escalating demands of degradation that Bernardo placed upon her. These demands had no limit, and he subjected her to horrifying ordeals such as donning a dog’s “choke” collar, undergoing penetration by a wine bottle, and even put her life on the line by nearly strangling her to death with a wire cord in pursuit of satisfying his twisted fantasies.
Despite Karla’s emotional turmoil, Bernardo insisted that his choke fetish was “important” to him and posed no harm to anyone. His venomous approach towards her left no trace of self-worth in her mind, as he relentlessly spewed verbal abuse such as “slut,” “bitch,” and “cunt,” emphatically asserting Karla was nothing without him.
During the defense’s presentation in court, John Rosen launched a scathing attack on Karla Homolka’s credibility. His primary objective was to challenge her portrayal of herself as a victim and establish her instead as an active participant in the couple’s reprehensible killing spree. While he may have failed to achieve the latter, he was successful in his attempt to depict Karla as a morally bankrupt individual with no regard for the gravity of her actions.
In fact, he highlighted how Kristen’s murder was conveniently committed at a particular time so that Karla and Paul could spend Easter dinner with her parents. Furthermore, immediately after participating in the heinous act of murder, Karla left to blow-dry her hair, demonstrating a callous lack of humanity. Subsequently, it became evident that Karla had craftily manipulated the circumstances of her interaction with the authorities to secure one of the most unfavorable deals ever made by the Canadian government with a criminal witness.
Regardless of the intricacies of Karla Homolka’s complicity and the bargain she struck with the legal system, it failed to protect Paul Bernardo from the seething resentment that festered in the hearts of the jurors. Consequently, on 1st September 1995, Bernardo was found guilty on all counts related to the abductions, rapes, and murders of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. Furthermore, he faced additional trials concerning Tammy Homolka’s death and his relentless serial rapes in Scarborough. Although Canadian law permits Bernardo to apply for parole after serving 25 years of his sentence, the prospect of him succeeding in any such pleas seems highly unlikely.
“Deal with the Devil”
Even after the culmination of the trial, one of Canada’s most polarizing and infamous criminal cases remained at the forefront of public consciousness. One of the primary talking points in relation to the case pertained to the 1993 agreement that prosecutors struck with Karla Homolka, wherein her cooperation and testimony against her husband Paul Bernardo would earn her a 12-year jail term in exchange. This arrangement has been labelled “a deal with the devil” and sparked an uproar of outrage and disgust among the populace.
As the years in prison dragged on, the hostile relationship between Paul and Karla intensified each accusing the other of murdering Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. As Paul Bernardo prepared for his appeal in 2000, Karla made plans for her pending parole in 2001. Her lawyers spent much of the intervening time trying to get approval for visits to a half-way house but their appeals were denied.
Canadians have widely expressed a negative perception of Karla Homolka since her crimes became known to the public, suggesting she is nothing more than a skilled schemer. One journalist aptly articulated this perspective when they wrote:
“In the unremittingly bleak and featureless prairie that is her mind, she has always been a special little girl, and so, apparently, there does she remain. I remember her licking her lips for the camera, during one of the rapes. I remember how once — this while Leslie was being attacked in another part of the house — Homolka sat upstairs in her bedroom, reading and then drifted off to sleep. It was not that her conscience was clear, it was that she never had one.”National Post columnist Christie Blatchford