In this post, Karla Homolka super-sleuth Yalonda Laugh and Patrick H. Moore of All Things Crime Blog map the “up close and personal” aspects of the Homolka and Bernardo rape and murder case and focus on the incredible loyalty Karla’s family displayed in rescuing her from Paul Bernardo’s psychopathic clutches.
by Yalonda Laugh with help from Patrick H. Moore
On June 14, 1991, Paul Bernardo kidnapped 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy and brought her back to the house he shared with Karla Homolka. Together, they raped, tortured and murdered poor Leslie. Shockingly, Paul and Karla were married 15 days later, on June 29th, in a lavish wedding ceremony. The photos reveal a poised and attractive young couple, seemingly radiant with the infinite youth and potential.
Even more shockingly, also on June 29th, Leslie Mahaffy’s dismembered body was found encased in concrete in Lake Gibson near St. Catharines.
On April 16, 1992, nine and one-half months after their wedding, Bernardo, with the assistance of Homolka, kidnapped a second school-girl, Kristen French from a church parking lot. After raping, torturing and killing her, they discarded her body naked in a ditch, with her hair cut off. Ms. French’s body was discovered two week later on April 30th.
It was probably very much to humanity’s benefit that the abuse Paul Bernardo subjected Karla to gradually increased in frequency and severity over the next 18 months, culminating in a particularly vicious beating with a flashlight in early January of 1993 that left her battered and terrified with severe bruises and lacerations and two black eyes. Had Bernardo not “pushed the envelope” to such a degree, Karla might never have left him and together they might well have committed further brutal rapes and murders.
The above facts are well-known by most – if not all – followers of Karla and Bernardo. In this post, we will focus on how Karla’s family and friends essentially saved her life by interceding forcefully after the savage January beating:
It’s a Family Affair
On January 4, 1993 Wendy Lutczyn , an employee at the Martindale Animal Clinic and friend of Karla Homolka , urged another friend in the strongest possible terms to call Karla’s mother Dorothy and tell her that Karla was in serious trouble and needed help. Dorothy had received another call earlier that week telling her the same thing. Although it is perhaps surprising that Karla’s friends waited so long to actively involve Karla’s parents, it is undeniable that when “the s___ hit the proverbial fan” they did what they could to help. Dorothy responded to the clear urgency of the messengers and loaded Karla’s sister Lori and her father Karel into the family van and drove to 57 Bayview where Karla resided with her husband Paul Bernardo. When no one came to the door after repeated knocking, Lori called the police and ambulance workers. With no legal grounds for emergency intervention, the workers came to the house but took no further action. Lori kept calling the house every 15 minutes until Paul finally answered and put Karla on the phone. Lori recalls that her sister sounded normal and said nothing to indicate that anything was wrong.
Dorothy wasn’t satisfied and the next day she made a surprise visit to the clinic and was shocked to see Karla with severely bruised and blackened eyes, bruises around her neck and a swollen head. She and Lori made the decision to pick up Karla and her personal belongings that evening at her house. Lori Homolka stated:
“(She had) bruises everywhere on her body/Disgusting. Disgusting. I was angry, confused, upset. Angry that she could stay with someone who could do that to a human being.”
It took almost an hour of the most intense cajoling for the three Homolkas to convince Karla that she had no choice other than to leave the house and leave Paul for good. Karla was weeping and bordering on hysteria and – in the end — Karel Homolka had to physically carry her out of the house to the van.
Karla was taken to Brampton, a city of around 500,000 in southern Ontario to stay with Dorothy’s relatives. Paul Bernardo phoned the Homolka residence but was rebuffed. He then shoved his way into Dorothy’s office at the Shaver Clinic and demanded to speak to Karla. Dorothy stood firm stating: “You hurt my baby. I don’t want you to see her ever again.” Paul warned them that there would be hell to pay for not allowing him access to Karla. Lori would not even speak to him so he shadowed her in hopes of seeing if Karla was staying at the Homolka’s residence.
In typical Karla fashion, while in Brampton, she immediately started seeing a man named Jim. After getting cozy on the dance floor, within a few nights they had gone to bed together and Karla had – in her peculiar fashion — introduced him to anal sex.
On February 9, 1993, Toronto law enforcement visited Karla and questioned her about Bernardo in connection to the murders of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. She admitted nothing at that juncture but eventually told her relatives the entire story. On February 11th, Karla consulted with criminal defense lawyer George Walker in Niagara Falls, which rapidly led to the negotiations with the Crown that ultimately culminated in Karla’s controversial plea deal and her testifying against Bernardo at his trial. Bernardo was arrested for the murders 6 days later on February 17th, although formal charges had not yet been brought. The police sealed off the Bayview house and begin an intensive search for evidence that lasted for 71 days. Surprisingly, they did not find the infamous videotapes which clearly demonstrated that Karla had played a much larger role than she initially led the authorities to believe.
On February 18, 1993, Karla’s friends Kathy and Alex Ford made the three hour trek from New York City to visit the Homolkas in St. Catharines to extract whatever information was available as to why Paul Bernardo had been arrested for the murders of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. “Karla must not have known,” suggested Kathy. They recalled that Karla had told them her house on 57 Bayview was haunted and that she frequently heard noises coming from the basement. Kathy and Alex continued to hold on to the comforting belief that Paul had kept Karla in the dark regarding his criminal activities and that she had been entirely unaware.
It was obvious to everyone – including the authorities — that Karla was in grave need of psychiatric care and she was admitted to Northwest General Hospital in Toronto for treatment and observation on March 4, 1993. She remained in the hospital for 7 weeks until her discharge on April 23, 1993.
Kathy and Alex Ford visited Karla frequently while she was hospitalized. Other friends also stopped in to see her as she underwent her barrage of psychiatric tests. She never mentioned the crimes or any beatings by Paul. She spoke of her dog, and all the medications she was receiving, and told her well-wishers:
“I’m getting the help I need.” When Kathy Ford asked if Paul had something to do with Tammy’s death, Karla stated: “I can’t believe how much you guys know. When I am allowed you will be the first I talk to.”
When Karla’s family visited, they brought her bottles of wine, which she drank eagerly. She seemed content to stay loaded most of the time.
In response to all of the stress he and the family was under during this period, Karel Homolka drank even more heavily than usual and generally appeared semi-comatose. The atmosphere at the house was dreary and oppressive and their telephone never stopped ringing. There was an endless deluge of calls from reporters and television and radio stations eager to hear the story. The Homolkas were saddened to discover that relatives and friends had been giving interviews and selling videos and pictures. The family spent their evenings huddled around their T.V. sets. The case was receiving massive coverage and the Homolkas were repulsed and mystified by what was being reported. When it was reported that a second suspect was more than “a person of interest,” the family was unaware that the second person was Karla and they naturally conjectured as to who the possible suspect could have been:
“Damn, she’s going to be in a lot of trouble for this. Why didn’t she just tell someone?” asked friend Lisa Stanton rhetorically.
Karel and Dorothy were horrified to find that Paul had been beating Karla:
“Why didn’t she tell us? We just didn’t know. We had no idea.”
“It was just an accident. NO ! This is enough. I’ve had enough ! I can’t deal with this any more!”
Dorothy later confided in a friend that during the period leading up to Karla’s trial, there was great tension at the Homolka residence at 21 Dundonald Street. She and Karel were both drinking heavily and she went to work as much as possible to avoid being home. They put their house up for Karla’s bail which was $110,000. Dorothy told friends and family that Karla was going to receive a great college education while she was in prison. They bought her a new television, a microwave, a small refrigerator and even her favorite Mickey Mouse bed sheets.
On May 14, 1993, Karla’s 12-year plea bargain deal was finalized, and she began four days of intensive interrogation by police. Four days later, on May 18, 1993, Bernardo was formally charged with two counts of first-degree murder and seven other serious crimes in connection with the deaths of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. Karla was also charged with two counts of manslaughter.
Karla Homolka’s Trial
Karla’s trial began on June 28, 1993. During the trial, her sister Lori would take Karla’s arm and walk her out of the courtroom. On July 6, 1993, Homolka’s plea bargain was officially approved. She was sentenced to 12 years in prison, and the judge banned the publication of all evidence and the plea itself. Karla was then transferred directly from court to the Kingston Prison for Women Medical Center. She had already toured the prison and met with the warden on June 10th.
Somewhat remarkably, over the July 4th weekend, just a few days before her sentencing and direct remand to prison, Dorothy and Karel gave her a “going away pool party.”
Paul Bernardo’s Trial
Paul Bernardo’s murder trial began in St. Catharines before Justice Patrick LeSage of the Ontario Court General Disvision on May 4, 1994.
Dorothy Homolka was one of the first witnesses to take the stand. She admitted she had never considered that Paul could have been abusing Karla. They had seemed lovey-dovey before and throughout their honeymoon, and even after the wedding. She said Karla had several chances to confide in her but that she never divulged that she was under any particular stress, and had never mentioned any beatings, and especially not the rapes or murders, including the death of Tammy Homolka.
On September 1, 1995, the jury found Paul Bernardo guilty of all counts against him including first degree murder.
Outside the courthouse on the day of the Bernardo verdict, Karel Homolka said little except to tell reporters that the verdict vindicated his daughter.
Afterward by Patrick H. Moore
One wonders whether Dorothy and Karel and Lori Homolka would have come to Karla’s aid in the manner they did if they had known, prior to rescuing her, the extent of Karla’s involvement in the two rapes and murders and the “accidental” death of Tammi Homolka. We will never know for certain. I, for one, am touched and heartened by the loyalty this beleaguered and rather dysfunctional family displayed for Karla Homolka in her time of need. Their loyalty — although perhaps misguided — is the stuff that holds all of our families together, for better or worse. Without it the world would be a much lonelier place.
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