Kelly Ellard will be allowed to leave prison to go to doctor's appointments and parenting programs with her baby, despite a parole board member saying he's disturbed by her continued understatement of her role in the brutal death of Reena Virk.
Ellard has spent about 15 years in prison for her part in the beating and drowning death of 14-year-old Virk at the Gorge waterway near Victoria in 1997. She was convicted of second-degree murder in 2005 after three trials.
A two-member panel of the parole board decided Monday that Ellard should be granted temporary escorted absences to spend time with her baby, who lives with her in prison in Abbotsford, B.C.
But panel member Alex Dantzer cautioned that she must take more responsibility for the crime.
"It would be hard to exaggerate the brutality of that index offence," he said. "It's also disturbing in the view of the board that you continue to minimize it."
Ellard, who was 15 at the time of the attack, has recently assumed more culpability for her part in the murder, saying she rolled Virk's unconscious body into the water. However, her trials heard that Ellard held Virk's head under the water.
In reaching its decision, the panel considered her risk of reoffending, her behaviour in prison as well as whether the absences are desirable. Ultimately, Dantzer said her behaviour has improved since June 2015, when she failed a drug test, and her last violent incident was seven years ago.
The absences are considered a step toward gradual reintegration in the community. She will be allowed four absences a month of up to four hours during a three-month period.
Ellard said Monday that after participating in the beating of Virk with a group of teenagers, she and her co-accused, Warren Glowatski, followed Virk to ensure she didn't report what had happened.
She found Virk unconscious and covered in blood near the edge of the water, she said, and tried to shake her awake.
"I panicked at this point," she said.
Ellard said Glowatski suggested flagging down a car for help, but she refused. Instead, she said she "rolled" Virk's body into the water and walked away.
Dantzer asked Ellard whether Virk would be alive today if not for her actions.
"She would be," Ellard said.
Dantzer pressed her on whether she was downplaying her role in the crime. Ellard replied that she didn't intend to minimize her actions but can only describe her own recollection.
"I'm responsible for what I did," she said.
The 34-year-old said she has come to understand the impacts of her actions on others and how to deal with her anxiety, which she said is triggered by the intense media attention to her case.
Ellard made the same request for escorted temporary absences last month, but the panel was split and the request was denied.
During her last hearing, Ellard teared up while talking about how her baby had calmed her down. There were fewer tears on Monday, but Ellard told the panel she didn't get pregnant to help her case with the board.
She said she was in "shock" and "scared" when she found out she was pregnant, but then she realized that she needed to make more responsible decisions for the sake of her child.
"I'm not in any way using this child to get anything," she said.
Ellard has had escorted temporary absences in the past, the panel heard. Before the former federal Conservative government changed the law, offenders could be granted absences by the warden without the parole board's involvement.
Ellard is eligible to reapply for day parole in May. She said she is ready.
"I feel pretty confident. I'm not made of glass. I'm not as breakable as everyone thinks."