I’m on the couch.
I’ll be here for the rest of the night.
I slept for a little while, which is good because I kept feeling like I needed to but it wouldn’t come. I woke up confused. I feel like I have been on that machine from The Dark Crystal that sucks the life out of you. I have no energy; physically or emotionally.
Today was the second parole board hearing and it feels like it literally took everything in me to be there. He was denied everything he asked for, which is the outcome we would have hoped for, but there is no celebrating. There is nothing joyous about this process. None of us should have to be here. It does not feel good that I am relieved someone has to stay in a cage. Life is not meant to be like this. It was hard to see him again and awful to hear his voice. To hear his lies, and the way he manipulates things.
It’s not even just about today but the time you spend to write your statement, the anxiety as each day gets closer and you know he could still defer and part of you hopes he does but even if we go ahead we will be back here again so it doesn’t matter anymore if it’s deferred or not. This is life now where we have to go through this.
To struggle between gasps and sobs to get through the words on the paper, and today was even harder because I watched someone who could not be closer to my heart chose to do the same. The protector in me cried out behind the screen with no video or mic because it hurt that he too hurts so deeply with this loss. To watch him struggle for the words and vocalize his loss was even worse than vocalizing my own. There is so much pain it feels like I can’t feel. I just feel numb. Like it’s too much and it is all jammed because everything is trying to get through at once and it can’t. So I lay here and wait. Slowly it will come. The unfreezing and melting back into life. A life that gets interrupted and has to stop because these things really happened and we have to go through this process. I wish he was remorseful. I wish he would take accountability. It would change everything, but here we are, and it means we have to fight. It is now our responsibility to make sure people don’t get fooled by his charming and believable facade. I know the story he tells, which seems to make sense, but I also know what never made it to the courtroom, which unravels his innocence story. He’s not suffered a miscarriage of justice and I will fight for as long as it takes because they are worth fighting for. This is their truth, only they never survived to tell it, and I did. Fighting is exhausting.
I will never give up.
Here is the second victim statement I read to the board today:
To the CSC and Parole Board of Canada,
I want to start with an acknowledgment of how hard these statements are to write. Your whole life must stop because you are going to reconnect with a level of pain that is debilitating, in order to write them. You have to disconnect with that pain most of the time so you can function in life, but it never goes away. My whole life stopped when Dean killed Susan and the babies and it has continued to have many more stops and starts as you pass anniversaries, visit the grave, have happy or sad moments when she’s not there, watch trial proceedings, talk with officers of the court and police, write victim statements and watch and participate in parole hearings.
At the last hearing, Dean’s lawyer said that victim statements should not count towards Dean’s release as it is only a question of risk. I understand his perspective, but he is wrong. I currently work with men who have committed grave harm, including murder. My work gives me hope and faith in humanity and has demonstrated that change is possible even in the darkest of circumstances. One key factor exhibited by the men that I work with, who have changed their lives, is the acknowledgment of the harm that they caused. They all take full responsibility for their actions and have developed empathy for the people that they hurt, both physically and emotionally. Victim statements are an opportunity for the victims to express their pain, fears, and desires and we are valid. It is an important part of healing for us to do these things, but this also provides an opportunity for offenders to get a greater understanding of the pain they have caused. Not all offenders will take this opportunity, and in Dean’s case, I see no evidence that he has. Society is at risk when an offender will not take responsibility for what they have done.
Parole hearings also give that opportunity to take responsibility for your actions and in the last hearing we saw Dean make excuses, dodge, and minimize his behavior before and during his incarceration in addition to never admitting he committed these murders. The court found him guilty, but there is so much information that never even made it to the court room which confirms that Dean planned and orchestrated the killing of his wife and infant children. To continue to claim his innocence enables the façade that Dean created long ago and could be the person he wants to be, but not who he really is. As long as he denies what he has done, he will be a risk to society.
The question before the board then is how best to navigate that risk. It would be inhumane to say that he should be locked away for the rest of his natural life. That would be to hold the belief that people can not and will not ever change. It dehumanizes someone and I do not ever want to be in a place that dehumanizes. That is how murders happen. People become objects. People do not change on their own. We were created for community and in community we have the opportunity for change. We have to be influenced by positive people and resources. These are severely lacking in our prison system currently. Dean is asking for UTA’s and ETA’s for personal development. I can not give a recommendation to the board if these should be approved or not because I don’t have enough information. I understand that he has a right to privacy but that limits my ability to make a recommendation since I don’t know what kind of personal development he is looking for. Some programs are well run and effective. Others are not.
Dean has, so far, continued to have personal relationships with people who are prohibitive to him ever finding full freedom because they enable his façade. People who misrepresent who they are and their relationship with Dean in the media and enable his self-centred behavior. People who have told him since long ago that he is entitled to whatever he wants. You can not reform your mind from criminal thinking if you surround yourself with people who also have criminal thinking. This gives me concern, especially regarding a UTA.
The previous board also saw no evidence of change in Dean and his ongoing struggle with deception and manipulation. He’s very good at image management. He’s become a champion of human rights in the prison by advocating for kettles, meetings and board games. It’s not that the people experiencing incarcerations don’t need or deserve these things (they definitely do!) but he knows how to position himself to get power and favor. He’s good at the slight of hand where he wants you to look at the good things he’s doing while he robs with the other. He’s smart enough to have convinced The Innocence Project and Innocence Canada to pickup his plight. They read court documents and police files while listening to his version of events without talking to anyone who was there and knows the other side. The parts that he doesn’t want to tell like pushing Susan into the wall. He spent their money on electronics rather than food, so Susan had to go to the food bank to feed them. They don’t know the steps she was taking to leave because she was afraid. So much more than that but all of it are things he doesn’t want anyone to know. That is part of the Dean that he hides.
He was surrounded by rejection and abandonment growing up. At this point, showing the real Dean is a significant risk because who could ever love him? He doesn’t understand that he deserved love back then and still does. We are all better than the worst thing we have ever done – even murdering my precious Susan and their innocent babies. As I stated previously, a victim statement allows victims to also express their desires. It is my desire that Dean takes responsibility for what he has done and finds true healing and freedom. Until he does that, he will always be a risk to those who know what happened and anyone who now dares to get close to him or not give him what he wants. This reality has to be weighed carefully against his requests and I trust the boards decision.