Notorious convicted serial killer Karla Homolka dominated Canadian headlines in the early 1990s. That’s when she and her then-husband Paul Bernardo raped and murdered at least three teenage females, including 15-year-old Tammy Homolka, Karla’s own younger sister. Both Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, dubbed the “Ken and Barbie Killers,” were convicted of various crimes related to the rapes and murders of two young victims, Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy.
Bernardo was sentenced to life in prison after being declared a “dangerous offender.” Karla Homolka testified that she had been an unwilling participant in the serial killings, and in exchange for her testimony against her then-husband, was able to strike a plea deal. In 1993, Karla pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. She would go on to serve her entire sentence and be released from custody in 2005. After her plea deal, video evidence surfaced that indicated that Karla Homolka was a much more active participant in the heinous murders than she’d claimed to be, and her release from prison was met with anger and protests, reports Crime Feed Today.
For over a decade Homolka has kept a low profile, changing her name several times in an attempt to avoid the media spotlight. As Daily Mail reports, following her 2005 release from prison, Karla married her lawyer’s brother Thierry Bordelais (she divorced her serial killer ex-husband Paul Bernardo while incarcerated), the couple now have three young children, Homolka and her family are living in Montreal and have largely remained under the radar.
Until now. As The Star reports, Karla Homolka, now 47-years-old, has been volunteering at her children’s elementary school. Greaves Adventist Academy is a private Christian school in Montreal, and local media discovered this week that convicted serial killer Homolka occasionally has been at the school working directly with children since her own kids began attending in September.
What’s more, parents were unaware of Karla Homolka’s true identity and murderous past until someone identified only as a “concerned citizen” began handing out leaflets at the school. Since then, the media has caught wind of the story, and Karla has been photographed dropping her children off and picking them up from the school.
According to reports, Homolka’s activities at the school included supervising a kindergarten field trip in March, bringing her dog into a classroom to play with students during show-and-tell and even teaching students how to knit.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church runs Greaves Adventist Academy, and since the news broke that a convicted serial killer has been doing volunteer work at the facility, has spoken out about the allegations. According to a spokesperson, Karla Homolka is not a “regular volunteer” and doesn’t have permission to be alone with students. To do so, said the spokesperson, would have required her to submit to a background check, something that apparently never happened. However, the Seventh-day Adventist Church spokesperson did admit that the school was fully aware of Karla Homolka’s sordid criminal history.
“She is not a regular volunteer and can never be alone with any children, either in school or churches.”
Other parents at the Christian elementary school are reportedly furious that a convicted serial killer has been spending time with their children on school grounds, even if she’s not technically allowed to be alone with the children. One parent said that they flat-out didn’t want Karla Homolka hanging around the school.
“We don’t want her here. How would you feel knowing that your child is interacting with a person who is a serial killer? It’s not right.”
The Montreal Gazette reports that parents who complained to the school about Karla Homolka’s presence were asked by school employees to leave the premises. Parent Stéphanie Deligne says that her child interacted directly with Homolka when the convicted serial killer brought her dog to class.
“It’s really unacceptable. My daughter was playing with the dog of Karla Homolka, and I was right next to her, but I didn’t know who she was.”
According to Deligne, she expressed her concerns to the school. She was later told that she would have to find another school for her daughter to attend next September.
Andy Maraj, whose daughter is in third grade with one of Karla Homolka’s children, says that he didn’t know who Homolka was or anything about her past until he read the leaflet that was distributed in March.
“When I first read the (leaflet), I thought it was a hoax. But then I saw her and I saw her walking around with her dog for the children to play with. I told my daughter: ‘This lady, I don’t want you to go near her please. If she calls you, don’t go near her and call me,’ because I don’t trust the school.'”
Maraj claims that he spoke to other parents about Homolka in April and that by May, he was told that he would have to send his daughter to a different school next year.
An attorney working on behalf of murder victims Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy calls Homolka’s “normal life” and freedom a “kick in the gut” to her victims’ families. According to Tim Danson, after what Karla Homolka did, she has no business being around children at all.
“These are joys the French and Mahaffy families will never enjoy because of Karla Homolka’s participation with Paul Bernardo to murder their children.”
The issue of Karla Homolka volunteering at her children was discussed at the highest level of the Canadian government on Wednesday. In Ottawa, new Conservative leader Andrew Scheer called the country’s criminal justice system “so broken” that it allows a notorious serial killer to volunteer at an elementary school. He added that he can’t imagine the horror that the parents with children attending Greaves Adventist Academy felt when they realized their children had been exposed to Karla Homolka in the classroom.
In addition to criticizing Homolka’s presence at the school, Scheer called on the Canadian government to institute changes that would prevent such a thing from happening in the future. Other politicians also commented on the highly-publicized situation, with Montreal MP Marc Miller confirming that the government would be “looking into” the reports of Homolka volunteering at the private Christian elementary school.
Tom Mulcair, the NDP leader, had a different solution to the problem entirely. He claimed that Homolka has already paid her debt to society and that it might be time for people to turn the other cheek, advising every parent to make sure that their own children are safe.
“Beyond that, it becomes a question of forgiveness. If you’re ensuring the safety of the kids, beyond our revulsion at the horror of the crime, is there any room for atonement and forgiveness?”
What do you think of Karla Homolka volunteering to work around children at an elementary school? Would you approve of her interacting with your children? Did the school have an ethical obligation to inform parents that a convicted serial killer was coming into their children’s classrooms? Let us know in the comments below.
[Featured Image by Frank Gunn/AP Images]