A British Columbia woman whose friend was killed by a mass murderer has begun an online petition to keep the man behind bars.
David Shearing killed six members of the Johnson-Bentley family in August 1982 as they camped in Wells Grey Provincial Park, near Clearwater, about 475 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.
Shearing is expected before a National Parole Board hearing in September, but West Kelowna resident Tammy Arishenkoff is fighting against that by supporting legislative changes that would end such reviews from being held every two years.
“I would like to see that in a case of multiple murders such as this that (prisoners) don’t get an opportunity to apply,” she said. “I think they need to stay behind bars.”
Arishenkoff’s petition, which had collected 2,400 signatures as of Thursday, is in support of a bill put forward by local MP Dan Albas to increase parole ineligibility to 40 years from 25 years.
Her childhood friend Janet Johnson was among those killed by Shearing.
The man shot and killed George and Edith Bentley, their daughter Jackie and her husband, Bob Johnson, while the family was camping in central B.C. He kept the Johnsons’ daughters, Janet, 13, and 11-year-old Karen, alive for almost a week and sexually assaulted them before taking them into the woods, one at a time, and killing them, too.
About 25 friends and relatives of the Johnson and Bentley families attended Shearing’s last parole hearing in September 2012. Arishenkoff said they all had to relive the horror of the crime and travel to Bowden, Alta., where the man is in prison.
“It’s constant revictimization,” she said. “You don’t ever get away from it and you don’t ever get a chance to even enjoy the fact that you were successful in your last bid. Someone pokes the balloon and totally deflates you.”
Arishenkoff said it’s expensive and emotionally difficult to attend the hearings and that many people eventually stop going.
“They have to travel to the prison, they have to relive everything. You have to listen to him tell it in his own words. And you hear things that you never unhear.”
Shearing, who now goes by his mother’s maiden name, Ennis, apologized at the last hearing, saying he’s aware of the devastation he caused.
“My actions will always cause me to feel an overwhelming sense of shame and a lifetime of pain and regret,” he told the hearing in the chapel at the Bowden Institution, north of Calgary.
His words didn’t convince the families or the parole board that he was actually remorseful for what he’d done.
Shelley Boden, who was the Johnsons’ niece, said it was the first time Shearing apologized.
“I never heard that before,” she said. “It took him 30 years to say it? Stay there another 30 years to actually feel how sorry you really are.”
The board ruled that Shearing still has violent sexual fantasies, hasn’t completed sex offender treatment and is not ready for freedom.