Twenty-five years after their family was torn apart by the rape and murder of their three-year-old daughter, Tom May and Linda Hamilton are being forced to relive the crime and muster strength to fight as their daughter's killer is facing parole.
In December 1985, Genoa Jean "Genni" May, was abducted from a Davis Bay motel by Darren Kelly, 20, while May and Hamilton slept in the adjoining room just two metres away. Genni's sexually assaulted body was found on a logging road outside of town the next day. After being arrested a week later on the tip of an acquaintance of Kelly, he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in April, 1986 and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. May and Hamilton received letters from the National Parole Board last month, informing them Kelly was scheduled for a parole hearing in the third week of November.
"The last weeks have been horrible. You always know that the 25 years is going to go by, but somehow, suddenly it's there, and you're unprepared and you can't believe you have to go," Hamilton said.
They dug deep and called in the support of family and friends who put their lives on hold to be present at Kelly's parole meeting to get the message out that they believe Kelly is still dangerous.
"I believe, and everything I've read, points to the fact that he is extraordinarily dangerous and I'm convinced of further damage to children. That's just something I can't turn my back on," May said. "He was out on parole for a day when he killed my daughter."
May said he believes a 25-year sentence is not nearly long enough for Kelly, but if he truly believed Kelly was not a threat, he and Hamilton would not be putting up the fight.
"Honestly, I think if it were just that issue, I'd be staying at home and not even thinking about this, or be doing my best to avoid this whole mess, which is unpleasant for our family in the extreme," he said.
During testimony following the guilty plea, a psychologist testified that Kelly was one of the "most dangerous psychopaths [he'd] ever encountered."
"That doesn't go away," May said. "Psychopaths are very capable of manipulating people to their own best interests, and this man has had 25 years to groom himself to be appropriate for release. That's our concern he's more dangerous at 45 than he was at 19."
But once they had rallied the support of family and friends, including some purchasing airline tickets to fly in from Alaska, California and the East Coast, May and Hamilton received word Tuesday night that Kelly had declined his first chance at parole. It was a mixed blessing, or so it seemed, until the next morning when they learned from another parole board employee that Kelly would be eligible for unescorted day parole in five months.
Now May and Hamilton have been put on a roller coaster they cannot get off until parole or life sentence laws are changed.
"He can be applying for unescorted day parole within five months. We've got a five month respite, if you can call it that, but the situation is intolerable that we're going to have to go through this every few months, let alone every couple of years," May said.
May said an early groundswell of opposition to Kelly's release, including thousands of letters and faxes to the parole board, likely affected Kelly's decision, and that the opposition is just beginning.
Changes to the system
Now that they know Kelly won't be getting out of prison next month, the family is galvanized with an additional goal and burden - pressing the government for change to see no one else go through a similar situation.
May said he could not understand why his family and other victims of serious crime must shoulder the burden of keeping offenders like Kelly in prison.
"Who do you have defending the public? The most damaged group of people you can imagine, who shouldn't be in a position of defending the public," he said.
"I've shed tears today. I shed tears yesterday. I've been getting two hours of sleep a night, as have dozens of other people who are deeply involved in this. And to be doing it again in five months? Every five months? Forever? There ought to be somebody else with my job," May said with disbelief.
Hamilton, too, struggles with the heavy responsibility: "I felt like it was up to me or, somehow, if I cried hard enough or made all the right statements or got enough people to sign papers, that it would be up to me to keep this person in jail where he needs to be so there couldn't possibly be another victim," she said.
During an interview, May runs his fingers along a line in a letter from the Parole Board that states offenders have the right to cancel or postpone a parole hearing at any time, even right up to the meeting itself, with no notice.
"That's wrong. We've had a family go through hell, and he's going 'so, in five months, check it out. I'll do it again.' That line shouldn't be included in this letter. There should be something that stops that," May said.
In 2008, May contacted Corrections Canada to check on Kelly's status. May and Hamilton were shocked to learn that no one by that name was incarcerated within the system. It wasn't until the family hired a private investigator that they learned Kelly had changed his name to Ryan Brady. The name change incident sparked furious outcry from the public.
Residents on the Coast may see petitions posted in local stores and coffee shops in the coming weeks, asking for signatures in support of reforming life sentence laws. A friend of Hamilton's has worked with John Weston, member of Parliament for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, to word the petition, which Weston intends to bring to the House of Commons to bolster support for a bill that would make the parole system more fair for victims of crime.
In the meantime, May, Hamilton and their supporters will continue to fight any attempt Kelly makes to step foot outside of prison.
© Coast Reporter