khomolkaThe case of Karla Homolka and her husband Paul Bernardo is one of the most spectacular criminal cases in recent memory. The case outraged many Canadians, particularly the fact that Karla received only a 12 year sentence based on her serving as the Crown’s star witness at Bernardo’s trial.  Furthermore, in recent years, the theory that it was actually Karla who committed the murders of two Canadian teens has been presented and vigorously supported by a sizeable number of individuals who have studied this case closely.

In this post, I will wade cautiously into the treacherous waters of the Karla Homolka debate and offer certain observations about the case based, in part, on my discussions with Michael D. Sellers, writer/producer of the film Karla, and further reading suggested by him, and partly on my own experience working as a private investigator for many of Southern California’s finest criminal defense attorneys during the past decade. During this time, I have worked on over 200 state and Federal criminal cases, reviewed and commented on hundreds of plea agreements, and witnessed dozens of defendants receive either lenient or very lenient sentences in Federal court.  In the majority of those cases with favorable results (from the standpoint of the defense team), I have played a key role by developing strategies in mitigation which are presented to the Court in writing prior to Sentencing.

In addition, it must be stated that some of these favorable outcomes were achieved by combining the mitigating factors with the fact that the clients cooperated whole-heartedly with law enforcement and, in many instances, testified against co-defendants at trial.  Strong factors in mitigation combined with effective cooperation can eliminate years, and even sometimes decades, from what would otherwise be very lengthy sentences.

 A Brief Review of the Case

sisterPaul Bernardo operated independently, as the “Scarborough Rapist,” carrying out as many as 25 rapes, and was also the apparent leader in his and Karla’s criminal activities. Together, they were responsible for the rape and murder of two teen victims, Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, and the rape and accidental death of Homolka’s younger sister Tammy. Opinions vary dramatically with respect to who did the actual murdering.  Was it Paul, as the Crown successfully argued in its case, who murdered the girls? Was it Paul and Karla working together? Or, as some claim, was it Karla alone who did the killing? Although this question may never be definitively answered, common sense suggests that it was a team effort.  After all, the video evidence clearly demonstrates that Paul and Karla were both involved in Tammy’s death, Karla giving her the knockout drops, while Paul raped her both vaginally and anally. In addition, at Paul’s behest, Karla also sexually assaulted her younger sister. In the deaths of the two teen victims, the video evidence shows that both Karla and Paul were there together at their house while they held the two courageous girls captive.  Thus, from a legal standpoint, it makes little difference which one “pulled the trigger.” Paul and Karla, to a large degree, acted in unison and they are both responsible for the outcome.  A good analogy would be a bank robbery in which two perpetrators go into the bank to execute the robbery while the getaway driver waits outside. If something goes awry and the robbers panic and shoot and kill two tellers, the getaway driver is also held responsible for the two homicides, which would probably be charged as 2nd Degree Murders, even though neither he nor the other two robbers initially intended for anyone to be hurt, much less killed.  If Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo had been bound over for trial here in the United States, and if neither had received major credit for cooperation, they would both likely have been charged with Conspiracy to Commit 1st Degree Murder. The one who did the actual murdering, assuming they didn’t gang up on the victim and commit the deed in unison, would be charged with 1st Degree Murder. The other partner would be charged with aiding and abetting 1st Degree Murder or some variation thereof. The fact that both girls were tortured to varying degrees prior to the slayings would likely trigger the “torture enhancement” and if Paul and Karla were both convicted of these charges in California, they would almost certainly get the death penalty.

Karla Homolka’s Plea Agreement

Many individuals, both in Canada and in the United States, feel strongly that Karla Homolka’s Plea Agreement, which called for her to serve 12 years in prison based on a reduced charge of Manslaughter was much too lenient.  From a technical standpoint, Manslaughter is the appropriate charge when the defendant’s conduct does not meet the criteria of 1st or 2nd Degree Murder.  To be guilty of 1st Degree Murder, the deed must have been premeditated and committed with malice aforethought (malicious intent).  2nd Degree Murder occurs when premeditation is lacking but malicious intent is present.  Thus, if someone goes berserk and pulls out a gun and shoots someone, that person would typically be guilty of 2nd Degree Murder.  Manslaughter is readily distinguishable from Murder I and Murder II.  The key difference is that Manslaughter requires “intent to harm the victim,” not “intent to kill the victim.”
Paul Bernardo and Karla HomolkaBased on the trial evidence, it seems clear that Karla played a major part in doing in Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French.  She clearly intended to harm them, but according to her testimony, she did not intend from the outset to kill them.  In the case of Leslie Mahaffey, when Bernardo said, “I’ve got to kill her,” because Leslie’s mask had fallen off and she could now identify them, Karla’s response was: “Well, give her some pills or something so she doesn’t feel anything.” Then, when Paul got the pills and gave them to Leslie prior to strangling her, Karla stood by and did nothing.  In the Kristen French case, Karla helped Paul capture their victim. Later, when it appeared Paul was going to finish the job on poor Kristen, Karla went and took a shower.

Based on these facts, the outrage over Karla’s plea deal on the part of the Canadian public is completely understandable.  Karla’s actions were utterly horrific and are made all the worse by the fact the victims were young and incredibly vulnerable.

So the question becomes, based on this level of evidence against Karla, was the 12 year sentence reasonable? The natural and justified revulsion on the part of the citizenry toward Karla still needs to be set off against the fact that she cooperated and testified at trial, as well as the fact that she was severely abused on an ongoing basis by Bernardo.  My sense is that upon weighing all the factors, the 12 year sentence would probably be viewed as more or less reasonable by many legal professionals here in the United States.  It should be noted, however, that in a court of law, there is seldom such a thing as a completely fair sentence.  The results are always open to interpretation and, as we all know, reasonable minds can differ.

And, off course, there is the further issue that the Crown absolutely needed Karla in order to successfully prosecute Bernardo.  Without her testimony, their case against Bernardo might never have been brought to trial.

It’s important to recognize that time-honored phrases such as “the wheels of justice,” the “justice system,” and the “legal system” may convey a false sense of how the system actually works.  The phrase, “wheels of justice” suggests that the system is machine-like in its scope and breadth, that it grinds away day and night, crossing all manner of terrain in its irrevocable pursuit of justice.  Well, in reality, it doesn’t actually work quite that way.  Sure, the system grinds away, and no doubt intends to perpetuate justice, but the fact remains that it consists not of machines but rather people, real human beings, flesh and blood with all that entails.  In any criminal case, the human element plays a huge and decisive factor.  And it is certainly true that this human factor sometimes results in inequities.  For example, a woman, particularly an attractive woman like Karla Homolka, will often get a better deal than a man would facing the same charges. Some would say that chivalry is not dead; others might term it sexism, plain and simple.  But no matter how you slice this particular onion, these are the facts. Judges, the majority of whom are male, are loathe to send a pretty woman away to prison for a protracted period of time if they can come up with an excuse not to.  The statistics bear this out. And, of course, there are exceptions to this general rule.

There are several factors that influence the drafting and the signing of the plea agreement.  First of all, it’s a back-and-forth process.  First, the prosecution floats a proposed plea agreement to the defendant and his/her defense team.  If the defense is not satisfied, it proposes changes. So then it goes back to the prosecution. Both sides negotiate.  This is called “acting in good faith”; the parties, although fiercely advocating their respective positions, are required to proceed in a civil and professional manner.

There are also purely practical considerations such as the current workload faced by the participants.  How much time do you want to put into this case? How many more important cases are you handling at that particular moment? But in the case of Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, it’s safe to assume that there was no other more critical case in all of Canada at that time.  So time was not a big factor. This brings us back to my earlier point: The Crown needed Karla in order to successfully prosecute Paul Bernardo.  Without her, they had no shot at obtaining the murder convictions.

Two quick observations and then we will move on to the “abuse factor” and how it may have affected Karla’s ultimate sentence.

The profound outpouring of rage and frustration on the part of the Canadian public upon learning more about the case during the course of the trial is now legendary. But it is instructive to stand back for a moment and consider what would have happened if the Crown had refused to give Karla the deal they ultimately did and she had gone to trial.  Similarly to Bernardo’s trial, Karla’s proceedings would have been very much in the public eye, whether or not the media gag order was imposed. At the trial, much of the same information that came out at Bernardo’s trial would have been presented: Karla as abuse victim, Karla as good girl gone bad, Karla and her lawyers claiming that Paul Bernardo was the real criminal and that he should have been the one standing trial. Now, when one eschews emotionality and takes a hard look at this case, it becomes clear that the Crown was, to a large degree, stuck between “a rock and a hard place.” They could not afford for Karla to go to trial considering the fact that, notwithstanding her outcome, it would have inserted Paul Bernardo directly into the crosshairs of public consciousness — yet it would have done so without the Crown having sufficient evidence with which to prosecute him. So let’s say Karla went to trial and was convicted of 2nd degree murder in the cases of Leslie Mahaffey and Kristen French. The Crown would then have still needed her testimony to convict Bernardo.  Suppose Karla, through her attorneys, had then refused to comply with the Crown’s needs? The public anger that would have then erupted based on the Crown’s inability to prosecute and convict Bernardo would have dwarfed the ultimate outrage over Karla’s allegedly overly-lenient Plea Agreement. Keep in mind that the legal professionals handling the case were painfully aware of all of these possibilities.  They don’t want the roof to blow off.  Sure, they know that they’re going to take a beating down the road when the truth comes out at the trial, but that beating, to these seasoned professionals, is more akin to a severe paddling than the pummeling they would have sustained had they been unable to take Bernardo to trial.  The parties were undoubtedly very cognizant of the risks they faced. They knew that both sides had to cooperate in good faith. The larger catastrophe of Paul Bernardo escaping prosecution for the murders of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French had to be avoided. At all costs. It was as simple as that.

The Abuse Issue:

A further factor that influenced the decision to give Karla Homolka a moderately good deal was the physical and psychological abuse that she endured.  The control exercised over her by Bernardo was considered to be Svengali-like in its nature and raises an important question: can (and should) spousal abuse be viewed as a factor in mitigation, and if so, to what degree? Keep in mind that factors in mitigation are in no way exonerative. They simply help to reduce the sentence.

There is no doubt that substantial actual physical abuse occurred.  The ER examination of Homolka in January 1993 reads as follows, (Galligan report, p. 42)

On examination today, Karla is in distress, quite anxious and understandably so. Her eyes reveal raccoon’s eyes, bruising all around the orbits, large contusion to her head with what feels almost like a depressed fracture, although x-rays have ruled this out. She has a subconjunctival haemorrhage in her left eye, which was seen by Dr. Marriott, and she was re-assured. She has several bruises down the left side of her neck, along her arms, with a very large bruise in the upper right arm which is three centimetres by three. About 75% of her legs from mid-thigh down are bruised, quite dramatically and swollen to touch. She cannot move them due to pain. On the right thigh, about 3 cm. above the right knee, there is a puncture wound which she said was caused by Paul Bernardo when he punctured her with a screwdriver. On the left leg, there is a large isolated contusion about 6 inches by 3 inches, quite warm and tender.

urlKarla Homolka suffered one hell of a beating at the hands of Paul Bernardo. It’s hard to see how any reasonably objective observer would doubt that Paul had beaten Karla repeatedly — given his documented history of violent sexual assaults in the Scarborough rapes, his violent assaults on his girlfriend prior to Karla, and the physical evidence with Karla.

So we must ask: what role did the abuse play in affecting Karla’s eventual sentence?

The answer is the abuse became an essential element in the plea bargaining process. Karla’s attorney initially sought full immunity – with the abuse as a key bargaining chip, and the Crown had little choice other than to view the abuse as a strong factor in mitigation for the simple reason, as discussed previously, that Canadian law enforcement did not have enough evidence to arrest and convict Paul Bernardo without Karla’s ongoing cooperation.

To its credit, the Crown does not appear to have at any point considered giving Karla full immunity, and thus there seems to have been no inclination to consider the spousal abuse to be fully exonerative.

In Canada, there was relatively little reaction to the deal when it was first announced, in large part due to the fact that at that time, in July of 1993, the videotapes showing Karla’s active involvement in the sexual crimes (but not the murders) had not yet been turned over to the Crown.  When the videotapes were later found and introduced at trial, a strong wave of anti-Karla sentiment began to build, and with it, the popular perception that she had simply failed to disclose the extent of her involvement to the police.

Crown officials contend, however, that Karla did fully disclose her active participation in the sexual crimes against Kristin French and Leslie Mahaffey from the moment she first approached the authorities, on February 13, 1993.  The Crown, however, chose not to share those details publicly, or otherwise prepare the public for the revelations that would occur at the trial.

Physical and emotional abuse perpetrated by unstable spouses is endemic in our society. It’s impossible to accurately gauge how prevalent it truly is because so much of the time it goes unreported. Karla had literally been abused for years before she finally came forward.

An F.B.I. article entitled: “The Disturbed Mind – Compliant Victims of the Sexual Sadist” provides useful information on this topic.  The article is presented as “a descriptive summary of the experiences of a sample of women who have been consensually involved with criminal sexual sadists.” The article describes “the physical, sexual, and psychological abuse” that seven female victims endured and discusses “the process by which they were transformed from independent, competent women to compliant appendages of their criminally active partners.” This is scary stuff and the article pulls no punches.  The descriptions of the victims’ sufferings are truly horrific:

Physical abuse

All the women suffered physical abuse during their relationship with the sadists. They reported being frequently beaten with fists and other blunt objects. One woman reported that her husband called his arms ‘guns’ and would periodically give her ‘body shots’ or blows to the chest and stomach. Another woman advised that her boyfriend kept her in captivity for 3 days during which he bound her from head to feet in adhesive tape. Hourly, he would stand her upright and strike her viciously in the body, knocking her over. Four of the women suffered broken bones at the hands of their ‘loved ones’.

Five of the women were whipped with leather whips, ropes or belts…  Another woman was suspended by the wrists and whipped with a belt periodically over a number of years.

Four of the women were burned with matches, cigarettes or lighters… Biting, as a means of physical abuse, was reported by all of the women. Painful clamping devices were used on the nipples and labia of five of the respondents.

Six of the women reported that they were strangled manually or by ligature during sexual activities. Most reported either losing consciousness or being on the verge of doing so. Painful bondage was used on all the women…

While all the women advised that some of their injuries were visible to others, only one sought medical assistance. This woman’s husband broke her arm while forcing her to engage in anal sex.

Sexual abuse

All the women were sexually abused by the men. Three victims were forcibly penetrated by large foreign objects. One subject used a 12 cell flashlight and also a long cylindrical piece of wood. Almost invariably these items were inserted anally, so as to cause maximal suffering.

Six of the women reported anal intercourse to be their sadistic partner’s preferred mode of sexual release. Forced fellatio was also reported by all seven women…

Two of the seven women advised that they had been urinated on, and one reported being required to administer enemas to herself. Three of the women were forced to have sex with others; two were raped by friends of the sadists, and one was forced to engage in sexual acts with another woman who had been kidnapped by her husband.

All seven of the respondents agreed that the men were sexually insatiable…

When asked to describe the worst sexual abuse suffered, one woman told being hung by her wrists and whipped to the point of unconsciousness, explaining that this degree of suffering and humiliation enabled her partner to become sexually aroused for vaginal intercourse. During the whippings she was not allowed to cry, scream or plead.

teddyThe article states that the majority of the woman had been sexually, physically and/or emotionally abused as children. All seven women in the study, like Karla, were raised in middle class or upper middle class families. Karla, based on what we know about her upbringing, was not abused as a child. Nothing in her past would seem to explain her compliance with Paul Bernardo’s demands. Of course, the absence of solid evidence that Karla was abused prior to meeting Bernardo does not establish that she was not abused.  We simply do not know. What we do know is that her relationship with Bernardo was progressively abusive, which may have served to gradually render her, in some respects, a “compliant victim.”

Another key difference between Karla and the women depicted in the study is that Karla, unlike the other victims, does not appear to have entered the relationship from a place of weakness or powerlessness. She was the aggressor in their initial sexual encounter; she precipitated their initial act of anal intercourse, and, in the early videos, she seems quite normal and content. Yet, as her relationship with Bernardo progressed, she became increasingly subservient. Since Karla did not seem to share the childhood abuse characteristic common to many “compliant victims of the sexual sadists,” and did not enter the relationship in a weakened state, we struggle to understand why she stuck around for as long as she did “once the game got rough.”

One glaring fact, which may at times have been overlooked in trying to unpack this thorny case, is the extent to which THE DEATH OF HER SISTER TAMMY CHANGED EVERYTHING. It probably provided Bernardo with a ten-ton bludgeon, metaphorically speaking, with which to beat Karla. If she had gone to the authorities after Tammy’s death and simply confessed, she would have been in huge trouble and would have undoubtedly received a protracted prison sentence. Furthermore, if Bernardo had gotten wind of this, he might have had time to destroy the video evidence and Karla, if she had already confessed to accidentally asphyxiating Tammy, would have ended up, at the very least, with an aggravated Manslaughter conviction.

Therefore, it is my belief that after Tammy’s untimely death, Karla “sucked it up” for a very long time. It was only after Bernardo’s abuse had escalated to such a degree that it was approaching but had not quite reached the level of suffering experienced by the female victims in the F.B.I. study (note the apparent screwdriver puncture wound and Karla’s sea of bruises from her mid-thigh on down), that Karla saved her life by going to the authorities.  It was only a matter of time.  Sooner or later Paul Bernardo would probably have killed her, perhaps accidentally, perhaps with malice aforethought. As a result of the stark reality of the final beating and the abject terror she must have experienced, Karla Homolka “read the tea leaves” and turned herself in.  Had she not, we would be dealing with an entirely different story.

Although we will probably never know for sure if Karla killed the two Canadian schoolgirls, or if Paul killed them, or if it was a joint effort on their part, we should, in a sense, be grateful that things have turned out as they have.  If Karla had not gone to the authorities, there is little doubt that Paul Bernardo would have raped and murdered more innocent victims. By turning herself in, Karla brought a halt to the carnage. No matter what we may think about her, the reality is that her decision, self-serving though it obviously was, had the practical effect of bringing the killings to an end.

posted by Patrick H. Moore on March 31, 2013

Click on the following links to read other posts in All Things Crime Blog’s “Karla” series:

Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo: Canada’s Most Notorious Serial Killer Case

Is Karla Homolka the Most Hated Woman in North America?

Was Karla Homolka a Normal Child? The Answer Is a Resounding No



33 Responses to The Karla Homolka Files: A U.S. Perspective on Karla Homolka’s Plea Bargain

  1. deepysix says:

    Great summary. Great analysis. One thing popped out at me though, which I feel the need to nitpick about:

    “Judges, the majority of whom are male, are loathe to send a pretty woman away to prison for a protracted period of time if they can come up with an excuse not to. The statistics bear this out.”

    This sounds like the “pretty women never get traffic tickets” meme, which has vast anecdotal evidence to bear it out.

    Statistical evidence, which you here imply exists in the case of judges, would necessarily rely on a hopelessly subjective determination (i.e. what constitutes a pretty woman).

    What you are saying is undoubtedly true in some cases, but the idea that such statistics can be measured strikes me as fanciful.

    • Patrick H. Moore says:

      Deepy Six, I cannot argue with your point. Somewhere, while putting this together, I came across the cited statement re: “the statistics bearing it out.” There was no citation which I guess is the point you’re making. I was hard-pressed for time to get this posted and with a sinking and slightly guilty feeling I succumbed to deadline pressure. I am not proud of this fact.

      Suffice to say, I am using the term “statistics” in a broadly metaphorical fashion. I will be more careful from now on (or maybe I won’t).

      • dream says:

        I am pretty sure that I read somewhere that women get significantly less severe sentencing. Now, you just have to track a mug shot study with objective beauty rating which correlates with sentencing.

  2. Miss Kitty says:

    Great article! I, too, have a pervasive interest in this horrifying case. I live in the general vicinity of where these atrocities occurred, and have kept on top of all the news.

    I would argue that the “escalating” abuse Homolka suffered at the hands of Paul Bernardo is largely unsubstantiated. While his final assault on her was certainly well-documented, the rest of the abuse she claims to have endured is merely that; her claim.

    Personally, I find it hard to believe that *nobody* in her circle of family and friends noticed anything out of the ordinary with respect to her relationship with Paul. One would think that decidedly extreme violence would have been required in order to convince an otherwise “good” girl like Homolka to participate in luring, rape, torture, murder, and dismemberment… and yet nobody saw anything?

    As for the well-documented example of abuse suffered by Homolka, Paul Bernardo offered up a very interesting explanation for why he had attacked her so viciously. He claims that the two were arguing over the circumstances surrounding Tammy Homolka’s death. Bernardo said that his wife had been nagging him about his inability to “get over it,” and he became incensed with rage. It is widely known that was devastated when Tammy died, and he claims that it troubled him that Karla didn’t feel the same way about her sister.

    I also have a hard time buying into the notion that Paul used their attack on Tammy as a carrot of sorts to keep Karla under his control. Clearly, Paul Bernardo had a lot more to lose given his prolific career as the Scarborough Rapist. If I had to choose a side, I’d say that it was more likely that Karla used Tammy’s death against Paul; threatening to sing like a canary if he ever turned his back on her (which she ultimately did).

    Woah, sorry for the rant! So much to debate in this case; I could (and sometimes do) go on forever. Again, great article :)

    • Patrick H. Moore says:

      Thanks for the kind words. I must say, however, just as I am loathe to put any faith in anything uttered by Karla, I am even more loathe to believe anything stated by Paul. My God, the guy viciously assaulted and raped 25 young girls. He is a real fiend. Do not believe anything he says.

      Keep in mind, it is my experience that very few defendants in any kind of criminal cases are ever totally truthful. They tend to rationalize their criminal actions just as regular folks rationalize their everyday decision.

      Thanks for your excellent comments. We very much appreciate them.

      • Miss Kitty says:

        ITA, Patrick; definitely not the sort of creature anyone should be encouraged to place any amount of trust in. However… he’s passed any and all polygraph tests he’s been given. In the videotaped police interview from a few years back, he repeats over and over again: “Why haven’t you polygraphed her?”

        While what he has been convicted of truly is monstrous, I have always felt that Homolka is equally guilty. Some girls who were stalked and/or assaulted by Bernardo claimed that he may have had a female with him hiding either in the bushes or in a waiting vehicle. While we have no way to prove that she accompanied him on some of his raping excursions, I’ve always thought that possibility was extremely likely. She told the police that she had gone with him to pick up Kristen, but that doesn’t mean there were other times (many other times?) when this happened.

        That being said, I don’t believe that her world is any more reliable than his. In fact, she had/has more reason to lie than Paul ever did because there was light at the end of the tunnel for her – she had every hope of escaping punishment for her crimes providing the right amount of spin was firmly and directly applied.

        Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Bernardo fan or supporter by any means. The guy is an animal not fit to enjoy the freedom of open society, and thankfully, he is where he needs to be and I don’t see him ever getting out of prison.

        • Patrick H. Moore says:

          I don’t necessarily believe that Bernardo is any worse than Karla. But the point remains, law enforcement had to give her what was considered by the authorities at that time to be a fair deal in order to use her testimony against Paul. The way it worked out two people were convicted and Paul was taken off the streets for good. Society was protected. That’s the bottom line; society has to be protected at all costs.

          That’s interesting what you say about Paul passing repeated polygraphs. You do understand, that polygraphs are not typically considered to be admissible evidence at trial. They are about as reliable as fingerprints which are also often not admissible. DNA evidence, on the other hand, is considered to be trustworthy and is, to the best of my knowledge, generally admissible.

          No one would claim that the Canadian system, or our system here in the U.S. are perfect, but they do the best they can.

  3. Miss Kitty says:

    Sorry, I have just one more thing to add.

    You wrote: “If Karla had not gone to the authorities, there is little doubt that Paul Bernardo would have raped and murdered more innocent victims. By turning herself in, Karla brought a halt to the carnage.”

    Karla did NOT go to the authorities about the murders. In fact, it was the other way around; the authorities came to her. They were finally putting the pieces together in their case against Bernardo, and they contacted her to see if she could provide any information.

    When Karla left Paul, she did not go willingly. Her parents literally dragged her out of the house after a co-worker informed them of their daughter’s bashed-up face. She went to stay with her aunt and uncle in another city, and had already met (and had sex with) another man before her bruises had even healed. When the police first came to question her, she told them nothing other than that she and Paul had been very happy together. However, when they asked if she knew anything about the disappearance of Kristen French, she decided it was time to sink or swim. She called them back to arrange another meeting, and after her lawyer had secured her plea agreement, she told them (her version of) everything.

    Sorry for the double-rant, but I feel somehow morally obligated to clear up the misconceptions surrounding this vile woman’s involvement in these tragedies. Bernardo is what he is, and he is where he needs to be. Homolka on the other hand, is free now and raising children of her own — and that is really, really scary.

    • Patrick H. Moore says:

      This is great information and I very much appreciate you bringing this to our attention. I was aware that Karla was certainly not eager to talk to the authorities. However, you must admit that she caved rather quickly when asked about the disappearance of Kristen French. So then, I suppose that in a sense Karla’s long-suffering parents should receive a certain amount of credit for “bringing a halt to the carnage.”

      • BJW Nashe says:

        It would appear that the plea deal given to Homolka by Canadian authorities, necessary to put Bernardo away, was the right thing to do. Homolka was released in 2005. So far as we know she has not engaged in criminal activity, or posed any threat to anyone. If she was truly a “vile woman” or murderous psychopath, she most likely would have killed again by now. Time will tell. As more years go by with no further Homolka trouble, the plea deal makes more and more sense. More and more, she appears to be someone who made a mistake and got caught up with the wrong guy, in the wrong situation, and lost all control, rather than the devil incarnate. But time will tell…

        • Miss Kitty says:

          You’re absolutely right, she has not killed, or helped kill, anyone that we know of since her release. However, I’ve always thought that the 3 girls she killed/helped kill before imprisonment was enough to deem her unworthy of the freedom that the rest of us enjoy.

          I agree that the deal that was cut with Karla was the right thing to do at the time, but only because the system failed miserably in catching a pair of criminals. What I don’t agree with is why her deal was allowed to stand after she was proven to have violated its terms by lying about her role in the crimes. When she was caught for her “forgotten” assault on Jane Doe, the Crown had the perfect opportunity to pull out of the agreement, but they didn’t.

          Her deal also could have been nullified if it was found that she, not Bernardo, “stopped the breath” of any of the girls. As we all know, Tammy Homolka died as a result of the drugs that Karla stole and administered to her — it was her idea to knock Tammy out, and she admitted as much to police. Why was this not considered to be “stopping breath”? Further, Karla went ahead and did the same thing (booze + pills + Halothane) to at least 2 more girls and this was after she watched her own sister die from the exact same chemical cocktail. I call that attempted murder, but in reality, neither Paul or Karla were ever charged in these assaults.

          • Patrick H. Moore says:

            In legal matters, once a deal (in this case Karla’s Plea Agreement)is hammered out it becomes more or less inviolate. It is a kind of a contract and will typically say that the defendant signing the Plea Agreement will not be prosecuted for any other related criminal conduct. The key here is “related”. Everything Karla did relates to the crime spree perpetrated by her and Paul.

            Plea Agreements have to be inviolate. If they weren’t, few people would sign them; nearly everyone would go to trial, and the system, as we know it, would come grinding to a halt.

      • Miss Kitty says:

        I probably would have caved, too, if the police had photographs of me wearing the dead girl’s watch. When Kristen disappeared, she was wearing a Mickey Mouse watch; Karla was wearing it when her battered face was photographed by police. At the time, it was inconsequential, but after she became aware that the authorities were making connections…

        I don’t mean to sound so disagreeable, but personally, I haven’t seen any indication whatsoever that Karla Homolka ever did anything to help anyone but herself.

        • Patrick H. Moore says:

          Fascinating. I would not say that Karla intentionally helped anyone other than herself. It appears that she was (and perhaps is) a very selfish person. But by going to the police, the process began by which Paul was ultimately brought to justice. This is what is known as “proximate cause” in legal matters. If Karla doesn’t go to the police, Paul is not apprehended. On the other hand, because Karla did go to the police, Paul was eventually stopped.

          Please keep in mind,I am not for a moment giving Karla a free pass. I support her 12-year prison sentence.

      • Miss Kitty says:

        As for Karla’s parents… Everyone in that household knew that 20+ year old Paul had become sexually involved with 14 year old Tammy Lynn. Many have argued that Karla became wildly jealous of her sister after she and Paul went out driving and didn’t come back until many hours later.

        I’ve always thought it entirely possible that Karla intentionally overdosed her sister as a means of eliminating the competition. While that may seem unthinkable, such is the essence of Karla Homolka. Most people would never agree to perform oral sex on their (unconscious) little sister, but Karla did.

        The things she not only agreed to, but gleefully participated in are truly mind-blowing, which is why I think it’s easier for society as a whole to consider Karla Homolka to be a victim. The alternative is just too frightening to even be considered.

        • Patrick H. Moore says:

          This is very interesting and I think you may be on to something. I’ve been wondering all along why Karla’s parents seemed to passively accept so much peculiar behavior on the part of Karla and Paul. It’s makes me question the notion that Karla’s family was normal. Since you are very informed about so many aspects of this fascinating case, I would be delighted if you would write a post for us (you’re clearly a very able writer) in which you focus very sharply on certain aspects of the case. Here’s what I think we need: 1)an in-depth analysis of Karla’s family (and Karla’s childhood). 2) An analysis of why the police were so bumbling when it came to catching Karla and Paul. 3) A description and analysis of precisely what happened when Karla finally went to the police and WHY she went to the police. This could be one lengthy Post or three shorter Posts to be published in AllThings Crime Blog. Please let me know if you are interested.

          • Miss Kitty says:

            Sure, I’d be interested — thank you for the invitation :)

            Of course, I feel like I should probably re-read a few things first. I’ve been going from memory for years, and it’s probably time to update those files!

          • Patrick H. Moore says:

            That would be great, Miss Kitty. We here at All Things Crime Blog are very much interested in presenting posts from our readers (i.e., those readers who have the confidence to take up the pen — or computer these days — and knock something out). With your substantial knowledge re: Karla, you are the perfect person to write for us. So I will assume you will have something for us in the fairly near future. When it’s ready or close to ready, just let me know via a comment under this article and we will go from there.

  4. […] The Karla Homolka Files: A U.S. Perspective on Karla Homolka’s Plea Bargain […]

  5. Marie says:

    I remember when the search was in full swing to hopefully find Kristen French alive. So many people were so worried for her due to her disappearance and heartbroken when they found her. I was 19 at the time and terrified. The Scarborough Rapist attacks had many women on high alert.

    As this entire thing unfolded and played out, it left many to wonder why the hell Karla got off so easily. I don’t believe she was the abused victim they made her out to be. Videotapes showed that she was just as ruthless and just as responsible.

    It was a sad day for Canadian Justice when she had her pathetic charges laid against her. That woman should be all rights, still be in jail.

    Anyway, great article.

    • Patrick H. Moore says:

      Darlene, first of all thank you for your kind words regarding the article. I enjoyed putting this piece together and I’m enjoying learning more about Karla’s case as we go forward. I’m not sure if you’ve had the opportunity to read our recent posts on Karla’s childhood and her family’s response to her crisis. Please take a look at them if you have not already done so.

      I’m very interested in your take on this whole matter because you were there at the time — 19 when Kristen French disappeared. Naturally, having lived through the terror and heartbreak of Kristen French’s tragic disappearance and horrific death, you can’t help being emotionally involved which, of course, leads one to hate and despise Karla all the more for gratuitously involving herself in such shameful activities.

      From the standpoint of law enforcement, as you know, they needed Karla’s testimony to build their case against Paul Bernardo which is why they felt they had to cut her the infamous “sweetheart deal.”

  6. Rich says:

    Great discussion regarding this tragic time that so many of us that live and lived close by still remember vividly.

    To put the battered wife syndrome to rest, to me it’s very simple. She married Paul after she killed her own sister! In fact she role played in a masquerade as Tammy lied there pretending to be her dead sister for Paul.

    Karla was quoted by her friend stating she was growing angry because it was taking her parents to long to proceed with her wedding as Tammy’s death was just a few months in the past.

    The fact that she had her parents over for dinner and was making frequent runs to the basement as Kristen French lied there dead. All while not showing any signs of mental distress from any friends or family in retrospect.

    Karla was documented as having an IQ in the 130’s when she was in grade 3. She played the system like a violin. Based on pure speculation I wouldn’t be surprised if Karla Meant to kill Tammy as it was well documented she was extremely jealous of the way Paul looked at her. She had to know there was a decent probability.

    As far as her or her parents putting a halt to the terror…It in essence was merely the police gaining closure and she rolled like most. don’t think for a moment that if there was no pressure that these 2 would have stopped.

    Don’t think because Karla hasn’t Re offended that those thought and instincts don’t lie within. You can tell someone to be quiet but you can’t tell them to stop thinking. Even Damler was intelligent enough to know that he knew what he was doing was wrong and he didn’t understand why he was aroused by his evil thoughts. But that’s what makes them social paths. I really do believe Karla was the more evil of the 2 because she was just to smart compared to Paul. Mixing genius with a social path equals pure evil!

    One last thing, the RCMP labeled it the deal with the devil, not the sweetheart deal.

  7. Rich says:

    After submitting something else came to me that just completely blows my mind and shows how wicked and manipulative Karla is.

    Her Lawyers Brother married her and gave her 3 kids! If anyone knows more about how evil she is, it would be her lawyer and the brother! I would have loved to be a fly on the wall the day he told him he was marrying Karla!!

    I’m not much of a religious person, however unless he’s some kind of guardian angel sent to help her in check I have no idea what is more sick! Her being so evil or someone marrying someone so evil.

    This to me is like letting blind and drunk people drive cars, they both should be off the streets!

  8. Rich says:

    Just watched some interesting footage, 2-3 weeks after they killed Tammy, Karla brought her friend over (Jane Doe)when Paul was out as a surprise and called Paul to let him know she had a present waiting for him. (Jane Doe) and did the exact same thing to her as they did Tammy. Wonder when she’s going to speak?

    The other interesting thing is that the deal she made wasn’t supposed to stand if they found she executed the final breath on any of the victims and it was evident with Tammy as she administered the halothane drenched cloth. RCMP was not happy with the outcome but said courts had no intention of charging her even if they found this to be true which they did. They knew it was going to happen anyway but we’re afraid Paul was going to slip through the cracks if they didn’t make the deal at that time according to the officer who made the deal.

  9. Rich says:

    Indeed! There is a great documentary on 5th estate on the whole case where they interview the office who cut the deal. It’s more in detail then my abbreviation, great watch

  10. Rich says:

    May 30, 2005

    Karla victim claims ‘coverup’


    Jane Doe wants Karla Homolka charged for drugging, raping and almost killing her when she was only 15 years old.

    The diminutive woman, who is now 29, told The Toronto Sun in an exclusive interview that it is “impossible” Homolka “forgot” her chilling drug rape during three days of police interviews that followed Homolka’s infamous May 1993 plea deal.

    “It’s lies. It was a coverup,” Doe alleged of Homolka’s unexplained silence in her drug-laced rapes — allegations that could call into question the entire plea deal.

    Jane Doe also asserts that neither she, nor her parents at any time agreed with prosecutors to waive charges against Homolka for her rapes.

    Homolka did not make any mention of Jane Doe’s drug rapes in three days of police statements given after she inked a deal to testify against her estranged husband Paul Bernardo in the sex slayings of Kristen French, 15, and Leslie Mahaffy, 14, and in the fatal drug rape of her youngest sister, Tammy, 15.

    But Jane Doe revealed for the first time that Homolka offered her a vague apology during a telephone call sandwiched sometime between Paul Bernardo’s arrest on Feb. 17, 1993, and Homolka’s plea deal three months later.

    Jane Doe recalled that Homolka, who was under police orders not to contact her at the time because Jane Doe was a witness in the Bernardo case, said: “I’m sorry for what you went through. I’m sorry for what you’re going to go through. And we will see each other again.”

    The apology calls into question whether or not Homolka lived up to her end of the plea deal that stipulated she could be prosecuted if caught lying, “obstructing justice, public mischief, fabricating evidence, perjury, inconsistent statements and/or false affidavits.”

    Homolka did not give one hint of the Jane Doe drug rapes until October, 1994, when she wrote to her lawyer that she had a “dream” of doing things with Jane Doe and asked him to make sure nothing undid her deal.

    The full truth of Jane Doe’s rapes did not emerge until the notorious videotapes of the sex assaults were handed to police in September, 1994 after Bernardo’s first lawyer, Ken Murray, quit the case.

    The videotapes show an unconscious Jane Doe being raped by Bernardo and Homolka in June,1991 in almost carbon-copy circumstances to Tammy’s fatal drug rape only six months earlier.

    Both then and now, Jane Doe has no recollection of the videotaped drug rapes, other than recalling that she woke up the next morning with what she thought was a vicious hangover.

    During a second attack by Bernardo and Homolka in August, 1991, Jane Doe lost all life signs for several minutes.

    Homolka made a 911 call, but cancelled it when Bernardo revived Jane Doe through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

    Jane Doe also had no memory of that attack, but recalls being violently ill and sleeping for 72 hours.

    “I don’t believe for a second that she forgot about me. There is no way. How can you do that and conveniently forget you did that?” she said.

    Prosecutors gave Homolka immunity from prosecution in Jane Doe’s rape on the eve of Homolka giving testimony at Bernardo’s 1995 murder trial.

    Jane Doe said she never signed a waiver of her rights, nor did she agree with prosecutors that Homolka should not be charged.

    “I was told by police, ‘Sorry, there is nothing you can do. There is a plea bargain now. The law is the law and it has been done … this is the bargain. This is it. You have no rights. The case is closed,” she recalled.

    “That’s why I have always been shy … I always assumed there is nothing I could do.”

    Jane Doe’s account contradicts elements of an Ontario government-ordered review of the infamous “deal with the devil” conducted by retired Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Patrick Galligan.


    A condition of Homolka’s 1993 plea agreement stipulated the entire plea could be quashed if her involvement in any other crimes surfaced.

    Galligan was asked to review Homolka’s initial deal and the second deal to grant her immunity on the Jane Doe sex assault.

    Galligan concluded prosecutors had no choice but to make the initial deal with Homolka in May, 1993 and that he would have done the same thing in the same circumstances.

    Galligan said the decision not to charge Homolka in Jane Doe’s crimes was “not taken in a vacuum” and was part of a trial strategy that ultimately helped convict the “extremely dangerous” Bernardo. Ontario prosecutors feared Homolka would be angered by the charges on the eve of her testimony.

    Galligan accepted Homolka lawyer George Walker’s position that his client had a genuine loss of memory.

    “There is substantial evidence in support of that factual allegation,” Galligan wrote, citing psychiatric reports which indicated Homolka experienced post-traumatic stress disorder and suffered from battered wife syndrome.

    The Galligan report said Jane Doe did not want Homolka charged, citing her need to get on with her shattered life.

    When asked about those comments, Jane Doe said she was never interviewed or consulted for Galligan’s report.


    “Galligan? I don’t even know (who) that is,” she said.

    If Jane Doe’s assertion is correct, Galligan’s report could be viewed as fundamentally flawed.

    Jane Doe said she has always been told by prosecutors, police and her own lawyers that the government’s plea bargain with Homolka could never be undone.

    “It was never an option,” she said.

    Jane Doe said she asked her lawyer about whether she could launch a civil action against Homolka, but her lawyer has warned her that she would be put through hell in court.

    When asked if she ever considered laying a citizen’s private information charge against Homolka, Jane Doe had never heard of the process.

    By law, citizens can lay their own criminal charges if police opt not to. But ultimately, the charges need the approval of the attorney general.

    Jane now believes her rights have been violated. “If I had my choice, she will be back in jail with Paul for the rest of her life,” she said.
    TOPICS: Canada; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events
    KEYWORDS: bernardo; canada; genderbias; homolka; injustice; karla; liberal
    Comment: Justice Galligan received his review directive from “red-Charlie” Harnick – the Harris government’s first Attorney General and one of the earliest principal traitors to Ontario’s conservative ‘Common Sense Revolution’.

    Harnick, because he sympathized with and/or lacked the political courage to clean-out the Marian Boyd protégés at the AG’s Office who had drafted the infamous ‘Deal With The Devil’, made certain that Justice Galligan’s terms of reference were so incredibly narrow that a full whitewash of the active betrayal of the public trust by ‘the Boyd gang’ and its related politically correct gender-bigotry was a virtual certainty.

    While, upon the Harris government’s election, many conservatives hopefully anticipated a thorough house-cleaning at what is still Ontario’s most openly corrupt Ministry, the writing was on the wall when Harnick’s first and virtually only major policy move was the appointment of his fellow reddest-Tory and long-time homosexual activist Keith Norton to head-up the Province’s – alleged – Human Rights Commission

    • PatrickHMoore says:

      Wow! you ought to write a post for us on the Jane Doe story. Just write it in your even-handed fashion — not accusatory but factual as much as possible and professional. It would be an excellent addition to the Blog.

  11. Rich says:

    Sure, it’s hard to not be blunt writing from a smart phone. I usually like to be more in depth.

    Would you like me to write it in here or another section?

    • PatrickHMoore says:

      I’ll email you. Write it as a Word doc and send it to me as an attachment. I ‘ll set it up, add images and I’ll post it as a regular post. About 2,000 words or so or wherever it falls.

  12. Eve says:

    I live in this area and am a few years younger than Karla. I remember this all vividly of course. More than one person “jokingly” told me i looked like Karla and it still bothers me to this day that someone would say that in a joking manner and not realize that no one would ever want to be compared to her. A friend of mine who looks similar to Bernardo (well, to the sketch at the time) who lived in Scarborough at was actually questioned by police as a possible Scarborough rapist suspect. Jane Doe is a family friend of a close friend of mine at and as a teen I listened to the story in horror. There was a publication ban in Canada during the trial so we were largely keot in the dark until the trial was over. Many who lived close to the U.S border would drive across to get the papers to read about it. As well, a pub I frequented often as a late teen, early 20 something was It is a source of national embarassment, shame, anger and sou disgust for Canadians, and esp Ontarians who lived in the vicinity and had some sort of personal connection in some way, shape or form with the victims and locations. It was with fear and such sadness to watch French’s parents on TV begging for their daughter back. It is not something g that is referenced and talked about among my peers because it was so traumatic. It has literally only been in the past week that I decided to look up some details of the case. The rumours at the time were so horrific and unimaginable that most of us couldn’t even bear to hear more.

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