Kelly Ellard was 15 when she participated in the brutal killing of Reena Virk, a case that shocked the country and shone a spotlight on the issue of teen violence. On Tuesday, almost 20 years later, she publicly acknowledged her responsibility in the death for the first time.
Ms. Ellard’s admission, however, wasn’t enough to persuade a parole board panel to grant her day parole.
Ms. Ellard’s second-degree murder conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2009, capping a legal odyssey that spanned three trials and more than a decade. When Ms. Ellard, now 33, was asked Tuesday who was responsible for Reena’s death, she told the board: “I believe I am.”
Reena was 14 when she was killed in November, 1997. She was lured to a secluded spot under a Victoria-area bridge and viciously beaten by a pack of teens. She managed to walk away, but Ms. Ellard and her co-accused, Warren Glowatski, followed behind. An autopsy showed Reena was covered in bruises and had a cigarette burn on her forehead.
Ms. Ellard has long denied she was involved in a second attack. But she told the board she had “omitted” part of what occurred from her trial. She said that after Reena walked away from the first attack, she told Mr. Glowatski to catch up to her to advise Reena not to talk to anyone. Ms. Ellard said when Mr. Glowatski returned, something appeared to be wrong.
She and Mr. Glowatski then walked in Reena’s direction, she said, and saw Reena lying on the ground. Ms. Ellard told the board that Reena’s face was covered in blood. She said she pulled Reena closer to the water’s edge, to splash water on her face, but she showed no response.
Ms. Ellard said Mr. Glowatski suggested flagging down a car, but she said no. “I pushed her in and walked away,” she said.
When asked why she made that decision, Ms. Ellard said she was trying to hide what had happened. She said she thought it would make the problem go away.
Ian Mackenzie, one of two Parole Board of Canada members presiding over the hearing, then asked Ms. Ellard why her trial was told she held Reena’s head underwater. Ms. Ellard said there was no reason to do so, because Reena was already unconscious.
In denying the request for day parole, Mr. Mackenzie said Ms. Ellard had for years denied she was involved in a second incident. He said she was now accepting more responsibility, but not to the degree for which she was convicted. Of the claim that she “omitted” evidence at trial, he bluntly said, “Ms. Ellard, you lied.”
He said Ms. Ellard’s decision to now take responsibility appeared “strategic,” rather than coming from her heart. He added that she is not yet ready for day parole, noting she has also been linked to drug use while in prison.
The hearing was held at Fraser Valley Institution, where Ms. Ellard, who was tried as an adult, is serving a life sentence. She has served 14 years behind bars since her initial arrest, having spent some periods out on bail. The hearing was her first attempt at parole. She must now wait a year before she can reapply for day parole, but her next full parole hearing is automatically scheduled for February. Ms. Ellard has waived her right to the full hearing four times.
Mr. Glowatski, who was 16 at the time of Reena’s death, was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999 and released on full parole in 2010. He participated in a restorative justice program with Reena’s parents and apologized for her death.
Reena’s parents have said Ms. Ellard should remain in custody. They did not attend Tuesday’s hearing. Mukand Pallan, Reena’s grandfather, said in a phone interview he was pleased to hear Ms. Ellard’s request had been denied.
During the hearing, Ms. Ellard said she sent a letter to Reena’s family three or four years ago taking responsibility for her death, but Mr. Pallan said he was not aware of the letter.
Ms. Ellard’s family members did not attend the hearing. Her parole officer sat to her left, while a therapist was to her right. The parole officer had recommended the request for day parole be denied. He said Ms. Ellard has shown a reluctance to be open with her case-management team, and there are still concerns about lying and manipulation. He also noted her drug use, with Ms. Ellard acknowledging binge-use of crystal meth and other incidents.
Ms. Ellard told the board she lived a lonely life before she was arrested, noting her parents had split up and she moved between them. She did not enjoy school and was in the process of moving to a special-education facility. She said she had trouble socializing, and was anxious and depressed.
“I did not like myself,” said Ms. Ellard, who cried at several different points during the hearing.
She said she did not know Reena before the incident, adding that one of the girls in the group was upset with Reena for possibly taking an address book, leading to the first attack. Six other teens – all girls – were convicted of assaulting Reena and given jail sentences ranging from two months to one year.
Ms. Ellard said she first wrote down what actually happened by the water for a correctional staffer in August. She said she had previously discussed it with other staff members.
She told the board she had a poor attitude when she first arrived in prison, because she felt she had been subjected to a “witch hunt.” She said she’s only matured in the last couple of years.
“I was 15 years old. I was a child,” she said. “I’m not that child any more.”
Ms. Ellard said she largely keeps to herself inside the prison. She said she is working toward being an esthetician and has the support of her family, as well as a boyfriend. She also said she was seeking day parole so she could receive better treatment for substance abuse.
When asked how she would handle the media attention if released, she said she planned to keep a low profile and that she was also considering changing her name.
Ms. Ellard said she’s grown as much as she can in prison, adding, “Enough is enough already.”
Mr. Mackenzie said that statement came across as “very entitled.” He added, however, that Ms. Ellard has shown some improvement, noting that she’s completed programs and has not been involved in any violent incidents in several years. He also said she has not been found to have used any drugs for nearly a year and has been deemed a low risk to reoffend.Report Typo/Error