LAW AND DISORDER BONA FIDES – PT. II

It happens more often than not.

Two days after Michael Brown was shot dead by a white cop in a predominately black neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri, 25-year-old Ezell Ford was shot and killed by police in South Los Angeles. That’s Rodney King territory. But I’ll wager dollars to donuts you know absolutely nothing about Mr. Ford’s untimely passing, probably haven’t even heard about it.

Like Brown, Ford was young, black and unarmed. Like police in Missouri, the LA cops did not immediately released the cops’ names that shot Ford or release the autopsy report. But there is no rioting or looting in South LA.

Why is one shooting covered relentlessly for a week and the other completely ignored?

It’s taken 20 years but in the wake of the acquittal of the thug cops who beat Rodney King senseless and the subsequent destructive rioting, police and black community organizers in South LA have learned something about detente.

Immediately after Ford’s shooting local police maintained a relatively low profile – no tanks or armored personal carriers or cops in full army combat gear; rather a handful of bicycle-riding cops in polo shirts patrolled the streets.

As you might expect the whole community was just as pissed as the one in St. Louis but in L.A. the Police Chief and other top-ranking officials showed up for a community meeting at the local church and did more listening than talking. When a private audience was demanded by one of the most prominent community leaders it was granted.

In many precincts in LA, cops stay in regular touch with major community organizers. Likewise, organizers and local church leaders have various cops’ phone numbers memorized. When protests are planned, seasoned organizers let police know, even when they’re the targets.

It doesn’t mean that policing is necessarily any better or different in LA than it is here in my stomping ground or St. Louis.

In fact, it happens way more in Los Angeles the most other places. LAPD police have shot and killed 12 people like Brown and Ford so far this year. Since 2007, 300 people have been shot dead during conflicts with the LAPD.

This time there was nothing for the media to shoot in LA. And there was probably some discussion about the unwillingness to put the Justice system in disrepute if two very similar incidents were sensationalized within a span of 48 hours.

Back to my bona fides:

I have so successfully infiltrated, investigated and written about police and prosecutors, their manipulations and motivations, their ineptitude and malfeasance the powers-that-be decided to make me the subject of an eight-year long investigation.

I was twice arrested and twice put on trial, first in early 1998 for three years and again in 2003 for another three. (On the first occasion I was charged with two or three counts of breach court order/ publication ban.

After a six-month investigation the police concluded that 18 pages in my book “Invisible Darkness: The Horrifying Case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka” could not have been written unless I had seen the visual portion of the videotape evidence restricted by court order during the Bernardo trial in the summer of 1995.

I was acquitted of those charges in late 2000.

In 2003, I was criminally charged with 104 counts, disobey court order/publication ban, 5 counts of improper storage of firearms and the Attorney General of Ontario sued me in civil court as an “Enemy of the State.”

Years later, when they were blatantly shown (i.e. we had the goods on them) that they had committed gross “abuses of processs,” I agreed to plead guilty to one count, misdemeanor, breach of publication ban.

In return the firearms charges were dismissed along with the other one hundred and three court order breach charges, half of which were felonies each one of which carried a penalty of two-years plus a day i.e. hard time in the Big House. Also, the Attorney General withdrew the civil lawsuit.

And so it ended.

As a consequence, I have had more direct experience with police and ministries of the attorneys general than 99.9 % of the population in North America and that is quite remarkable, given my disposition: aging, middle-class, well-educated, law-abiding, white male.

Many of the larger writing assignments I’ve accepted over the years brought me into the ambit of authority. Then again, what is true for the majority of the population is also true for writers.

The majority of writers and journalists in North America do not have any direct experience or exposure to the courts, the offices of the district attorneys or their handmaidens, the police. Certainly not both sides. Certainly not as a thorough researcher and writer on the one hand and a criminally accused and prosecuted on the other.

I am also unique among the legion of talking heads and pontificators with their blogs, books, pedigrees and degrees, in law and criminology and what-have-you; I am not on one side or the other: Got no dog in the fight, no reputation to maintain.

Crime beat reporters might be thought an exception, except theirs is a symbiotic not a critical or even investigative relationship to police and prosecutors. And none that I know of have ever been arrested, criminally charged and prosecuted for almost a decade.

Most appear to be beards or apologists for police. Even so, even were Noam Chomsky and I wrong about how the media functions – or dysfunctions – in the world of daily reportage, crime beat reporters are a small minority of which I am definitely not one. I have never worked for any news media organizations. And I am at this time not aware of any who have ever been arrested and criminally charged with felony crimes.

As described, my expertise is rooted in a couple of the more difficult topics I chose to write about – the sexual homicide of a Toronto shoeshine boy, Emmanuel Jacques by four pedophiles in the late 70s and published in a magazine entitled “Sympathy for the Devil.

More recently, the crimes, trials and incarcerations of Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, a large, complicated case I wrote about exhaustively and definitively in two books, “Invisible Darkness” and “Karla: A Pact with the Devil,” both initially published in North America by the Random House Group.

As a consequence of getting the back story right and bringing facts into the public domain that the authorities spent enormous time and money, I was taken down like a drug dealer in the kitchen of my old farmhouse at 6 AM Sunday morning by a dozen heavily armed cops, spent a weekend in jail, was subsequently raided and put out of my house for a 24-hour period while the goon squad ransacked the place.

Both my wife’s and my computers, backup and voluminous files were seized, and in spite of the eventual favorable outcome, never returned, I was relentlessly prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Both criminally and civilly, although there was nothing civil about it.

This sort of thing brings back ugly memories and I’ve never been at all convinced that writing is a cathartic excercise. For me, it’s just hard. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop. There’s one more section on this topic to come.

Bernardo beer box hat

PRISON GROUPIES

This past Thursday, (July 3, 2014) I awoke to what can only be described as a squall, a minor atmospheric disturbance. In a world consistently assaulted by media frenzies – days-long torrential blah blah, blah blah fests, talking heads and hurricane-force chattering clashes, tsunamis of crazy opinions offered by individuals with questionable intellectual pedigree, this was nothing. A momentarily, strictly regional thunderstorm. 

A few examples:

 Yahoo News
https://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/dailybrew/notorious-killer-paul-bernardo-reportedly-set-marry-ontario-152004508.html

 National Post
http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/07/03/christie-blatchford-there-are-reasons-beyond-salaciousness-to-revive-the-story-of-paul-bernardo/

London Free Press
http://www.lfpress.com/2014/07/03/paul-bernardo-plans-to-marry-ontario-woman

 Toronto Star
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/07/04/paul_bernardos_wouldbe_wife_not_alone_in_weird_attraction_dimanno.html

 According to the tabloid press, from which all other outlets culled their information, a 30-year old, well-educated woman from a caring family in London, Ontario had become infatuated with convicted sex killer Paul Bernardo, currently in residence in an 8′ x 10′ cell at the Millhaven Institution near Kingston, On. She has told friends they intend to marry and someone leaked the information.

 This I learned in an email from London, On. talk show radio host Craig Needles inviting me to add my two cents to the cacophony. It would be impolite not to respond so I did. You can review my comments in the last half of an article posted on the radio station’s web page entitled “Government Unable to Prohibit Paul Bernardo From Communicating With London Bride-to-Be” (and possibly hear) at this link: http://www.am980.ca/2014/07/04/21952/

 I also concurrently received an email from Chris, a blind reader of one of my two books on the case, that began with the expressive acronym “WTF?”

 “Quite simply … WTF??
Will the Bernardo/Humolka case just never go away?
Is Bernardo actually capable of manipulating this woman in London, or is she just sick in the head, or perhaps both?
I’m sure you hear this a lot but ..
I came of age during the whole sordiTd affair in the early 90’s. I’ve since listened to your second book, a Pact with the Devil, thanks to CNIB having recorded it for us blind folks.”

To answer Chris’s second question, probably not. Not as long as there is a tabloid press that believes they are our eyes and ears on the vanguard and it is our right “to know”, whether we want to or not.

Certainly not as long as the tabloid-tempered are not jailed like one of their most fierce and fearless was for his part in the infamous British phone hackinig scandal.

Andy Coulson was the editor of Rupert Murdoch’s then 168-year-old sleaze fest “News of the World” and the former media chief for British Prime Minister David Cameron who sagely said upon learning of his friend’s conviction: “What this says is that it’s right that justice should be done and that no one is above the law” blah blah… http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/07/04/britain-hacking-idINKBN0F90S420140704

Not as long as there are misogynistic ministers of Justice who are completely ignorant of the internal machinations of those hopelessly conflicted institutions of punishment and rehabilitation in his purview such as our own Peter MacKay.

In the article in which I am quoted on AM980’s web page they also quote him: “We can’t stop the person from communicating through letters and emails unless there is something that is seen as harassing or criminal in it’s intent.”

The fact is no prisoner in Canada is allowed to communicate through email. Here is the government rule: http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/text/plcy/cdshtm/085-cde-eng.shtml. All MacKay had to do was google it.

In fact, it is so difficult to communicate with anyone on the “inside” that friends and family of the incarcerated have developed a very active and well subscribed list-serve to share their experiences, frustrations and best practices for staying in touch with loved ones in prison: http://www.prisontalk.com/forums/archive/index.php/f-1403.html

If Peter MacKay does not know such stuff, what, I ask, could he possibly do about anything except   (like every politician who has ever lived), gratuitously pander to memories of innocence once again: Right after he demonstrates he knows nothing about the subject at hand “the minister says whenever he hears Bernardo’s name, he thinks about his victims”! Blah blah blah. 

When criticized the media always say it only covers stories that it knows its readers/listeners/views want. It never says how it knows. 

It’s hard to imagine that anyone wants this much coverage of something that is simultaneously irrelevant, rude, absurd, sad and yesterday’s news. 

If no one could do anything about Karla Homolka’s criminally light sentence, her release from jail in 2005 – absolutely free and clear – (including that disgraced former Attorney General for Ontario, Michael Bryant who spent millions of the taxpayers hard earned dollars aggrandizing himself in what the media portrayed as a valiant effort to impose Section 810 restrictions on her release – an order that, being an allegedly “brilliant” lawyer himself, he well knew would never be granted) 

What’s to be done about this young woman who wants to be Bernardo’s 2nd wife? Reading the media that’s apparently what everyone wants to know. 

The media reports are all veiled interrogatories about her sanity and ascribe to her what the prosecutors used as a subterfuge for the real reason they made such an unconscionable deal with Bernardo’s first wife oh so long ago; to wit, Karla was under the hypnotic spell of a Svengali-like sadistic sex killer and “forced” to do what she did much like this “fragile” young woman, “seduced” as she had been, by this pasty unattractive man who is kept locked up in a closet virtually 24/7 and with whom it is very difficult to communicate. 

No matter. One “journalist” describes Bernardo as “a singular type of character. Notorious for his cunning and charisma… ” Once again, by whom? 

This characterization of Bernardo is one put forward by the authorities after Bernardo’s arrest and during his trial in an attempt to excuse their inability to catch him and at the very least prevent the deaths of three young women and the rapes of a dozen more. It is not how anyone in possession of his biographical details or any of the actual facts of the case see the man. That portrait is one of a callow, feckless, clumsy, surprisingly stupid, cruel sexual deviate who also happens to be, literally and figuratively, a bastard. 

Regardless of the prisoner’s character flaws, they do not speak to the young woman’s character or motives. There are all kinds of prison groupies and by no means are most sad or mad.

 As that old warhorse of the True Crime genre Clifford L. Linedecker wrote in the introduction to his 1993 mass market paperback Prison Groupies:

“Even though many of the jailhouse Lotharios are drawn from a devil’s roster of some of the most ruthless and sadistic sex thrill killers in America, the women they attract are as likely to be alluring, desirable beauties with intelligence and exciting careers… “

 Linedecker goes on to back up this statement with detailed stories that include the exploits of Danielle Steele, the fabulously wealthy, multi-million-copy selling author of potboiler romances and her coupling with cons, the female lead in Stanley Kubrick’s Hollywood blockbuster “Lolita,” Sue Lyon, and the incarcerated object of her affections, and Mary Evans who was “the beautiful, bright, and educated daughter of a socially prominent and loving well-to-do family.”

 Remember Mary Evans?

 In the early ’80s Mary was a promising young criminal lawyer practicing in Knoxville, Tennessee. She was set to defend a harden criminal named William Timothy Kirk against multiple murder charges. Rather than do that she helped him escape – at gunpoint – and then went with him – four days before his trial. This stunt triggered one of the most highly publicized and substantial manhunts in the history of the South.

 Linedecker’s book documents 20 real-life cases to reinforce and illustrate his point. There are a surprising number of Paul Bernardo types, i.e. “the most ruthless and sadistic sex thrill killers” alive. After all, if they are alive (some aren’t they lived in Texas and got the needle) they can get married, go to the tuck shop once a week, sit in the cells, occasionally make a phone call, read whatever they can get their hands on – not much. That’s about it.

 But one hardly need go back to the early ’90s for such documentation and insight. Oprah did an hour-long television exploration on the subject circa 2010. http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Prison-Weddings

 It occured to me that I should offer Bernardo’s new paramour a copy of Invisible Darkness: The Horrifying Case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. It is the definitive work on the case. And exhaustive. Don’t take my word for it. Check the court records. Over the almost ten years I was unsuccessfully prosecuted for breaching court oders and publication bans, it was “proven beyond a shadow of a doubt” to be the most comprehensive and well-documented account of Paul and Karla’s lives, pre- and post-marriage and their crimes. (All kinds of readers who have posted reviews on various web pages have warned that it’s not for “the faint of heart” or the “squimish”.) Surely, it would turn this young woman off Paul Bernardo?

 Or would it?

 She might misread it, as so many have.

 Even though the prosecutor forcefully pointed out during the Bernardo trial in ’95 that regardless of who actually “took their breath” (referring to Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French) both Paul and Karla were equally guilty of first degree murder. Full stop.

 Although the official story is the one that has held the most sway, i.e. Karla was suffering from Battered Spouse Syndrome and was the “compliant victim of a sexual sadist” suffering from PTSD and one still hears “if only they had discovered the videotape evidence sooner…” Invisible Darkness portrays Karla as the managing and motivating partner and documents the fact that no one died before they moved in together. And videotape had nothing to do with her deals.

 (Also, I have actually had the temerity to point out that no one got raped until after they met in 1987, a fact that some people, particularly police people, vehemently disagree.)

 Further, there is very compelling evidence that Karla was the one that actually took their victims’ breaths, indisputably in the case of her younger sister, a murder for which no one has ever been tried. (I explained why not in both books but most people, even the few who have actually read the books, can’t seem to grasp.)

 What if this… what should I call it – “confusion”- or “interpretation” – is sufficient to drive her into matrimony, thinking. “if Karla made him do it then I can make him into a good God-fearing Christian.” Rather than firmly and unequivocally dissuade her from going through with it? what if it has the exact opposite effect? Everyone knows the road to Perdition is paved with the best of intentions. I would feel badly. I think I’ll just keep my mouth shut.

flamingos

LIFE ON NUT ISLAND AND SOCIAL AMNESIA – PT. I

flamingos

Life on Nut Island

The Boston Marathon bombing: Now there’s a crime that speaks directly to us about the dangerous times in which we live, the inherent growing isolation of the individual in “society,” our perpetual pathological unawareness and psychic blindness, the helplessness of entire law enforcement bureaucracies in the face of one or two renegade lunatics – heavy stuff not the squalid, sordid tragic mess with which I became so entwined, the salacious Bernardo/Homolka saga that consumed ten years of my life and from which I will probably never fully recover.

As usual I’m on about unlearned lessons from Nut Island. My two arrests in 1998 and 2003 and subsequent decade-long prosecutions had nothing to do with “free speech” or “free expression” as many journalists and media-types and writers’ groups conceived – nothing so lofty.

(I was, of course, thankful for the Writer’s Union, PEN’s and CJFE’s and the Human Rights Watch support which was hung on that hook. Any writer in trouble with the police and/or government deserves that support providing they have not robbed a bank or killed their partner.)

Even though my arrests and prosecutions were “personal,” the consequence of a perceived offence that I had, unwittingly or not, levied upon a couple of politically powerful men, still none of it would ever have happened except for a quirk in the space – time continuum, a small “c” classic case of two or three people being in the wrong place at the right time for the wrong reasons.

Neither can anyone draw any survival lessons for the young and innocent from the story I was somehow destined to chronicle in “Invisible Darkness” and “Karla“. What lessons can we teach our daughters from the Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French abduction, rape and murder?

What is to be garnered from already street-wise and aware teenagers who approached, in Kristen’s case, a late model car with an attractive young couple in a church parking lot in the middle of a sunny afternoon in response to an ask for directions in a city in which people perpetually get lost and constantly ask for directions?

Is the lesson that you never ever talk to a stranger (or stangers) Susie, under any circumstances, regardless how innocent they appear. If some one asks you for directions you must immediately tell them to “fuck off” and run into the nearest house and phone the police?

Or in Leslie Mahaffy’s case: Is the lesson never practice “tough love”; never lock your teenager daughters out of the house in an attempt to teach them lessons? Maybe, but when mothers’ are at their wits’ end, tactics can get weird.

Does a “mistake” like that (if that’s what it is) deserve such an horrific and final restitution? Of course not.

But that would be the sum total of any lessons this reality show the Bernardo’s created conveys: “Don’t lock your daughters out of the house at night.” But what about all the tens of thousands of sons and daughters who don’t care whether their parents’ doors are locked because they long ago decided not to go home at night anyway? It’s a hopeless tautology, and hardly one from which lessons can be drawn.

And are we any closer to understanding psycopaths or sociopaths or whatever term is au current for this fictious character than we were when the figure was first coagulated in that unreadable book “Mask of Sanity” by Hervey Cleckley published 1941? Even if you buy into psychopathy, how does it explain or deter murderous creatures such as Paul and Karla?

There is however a lesson that can be taken from all extreme cases such as the Boston Marathon bombing, Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, Amanda Knox and her incarceration in Italy and the arrest and “successful” prosecution and wrongful conviction of the five young men who were convicted of a rape in Central Park ten years ago: The lesson is as unattainable as solid explanations for “Why Hitler“? We must scrap our institutions of law and disorder and start again because they are completely disfunctional and beseiged by a kind of organizational necrotizing fasciitis.

Read about it and watch: I wrote a piece published in Walrus Magazine in 2007 and soon to be released as an electronic long-read called “Life on Nut Island“. Amanda Knox has just published a memoir “Waiting to Be Heard“. And then there is the documentary called “The Central Park Five“?

STRANGERS AND STRANGE ANNIVERSARIES – THE BRITISH ARE COMING!

The French Invasion was followed by the British.

In February 2013 yet another television producer, this time from England, reached out to me. As the French are from the British, Mr. Turner was entirely different than Ms. Ladou. “I’m contacting you from a television production company called Twofour Broadcast based in Plymouth, UK. We make a documentary series called ‘Born to Kill?’ (known as ‘Twisted’ in the US) which is distributed worldwide. We’re currently on the fifth series and looking to focus one of the episodes on the case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

“The series ‘Born to Kill?’ tells the stories of some of the world’s most notorious killers through the words of the people that knew them, their victims, and communities best. The central crux of the series is to answer the nature vs. nurture argument – were these killers’ actions determined by violent predispositions they were born with, or a result of upbringing and life circumstances pushing them towards it?

“For previous episodes we have interviewed prosecution and defence from the cases, spouses and family members of the killers, the perpetrators of the crimes, criminal psychiatrists, victims’ family members, and expert journalists, always receiving positive feedback from those involved. Through those that knew the killer and the contemporary social environment best, we question the true impetus and drive of the crimes, rather than glorifying or vilifying as I’m aware many crime documentaries tend to do when focusing on serial killers.

“To help illustrate the kind of documentary we wish to produce on Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, you can find a link to a previous episode we have produced in the series on the case of Santa Cruz killer Herbert Mullin here:

As a consequence of my interaction with Mr. Turner and TwoFour which began in November, 2012 and continued over the ensuing four months I sent a missive to to TwoFour’s Chief Executive Charles Wace cc’d to the Managing Directors Mark Hawkins and Melanie Leach, as well as Executive Producer Neil Edwards.

“I am writing you out of sense of frustration and indignation. I am the author of two books on a Canadian crime commonly referred to as the Bernardo/Homolka case. The case has finally caught the eye of the producer(s) of one of TwoFour Groups’ programs ‘Born to Kill’.

“My two books, both published by Random House Group companies are titled ‘Invisible Darkness: The Strange Case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka’ (1997) and ‘Karla: A Pact with the Devil’ (2003). In spite of their age, both continue to sell briskly around the world.

“I own the worldwide broadcast, media and digital rights. I am recognized as the leading authority on this case and the books are rightly considered encyclopedic and definitive. “Virtually everything of any consequence in my books is understood to be proprietary information.

“In November 2012 someone from “Born to Kill” reached out to me and since then, off and on, and since February 2013, very much on, I have participated in a well meaning and open correspondence with one James Turner. Just before I was to be interviewed for the program in Toronto on March 28, Mr. Turner unceremoniously and without explanation cut me loose for want of a better phrase. His note from March 22 read

‘Hi Stephen,

Unfortunately we can’t proceed. Thank you very much for your correspondence but the schedule has changed and we’re no longer able to go ahead with the meeting and the interview.

Thanks again for your interest,

James’

“It was obviously the decision of whoever is the exec producer for this segment “Born to Kill” to exclude me. I do know that the project is going ahead because I know a number of the people who are scheduled to be interviewed in Toronto and environs from March 27 through to March 31.

“After all the time I was enticed to commit, not to mention the advice and leads I freely provided, the disrespectful and terse manner in which I have been dismissed cannot stand.

“Mr. Turner thanks me for my ‘interest’. It was not my interest in ‘Born to Kill’ it was the producers’ interest in me and my work. I had never heard of ‘Born to Kill’ or TwoFour Studios before I received an email in November 2012 asking me if I would be interested in participating in the program.

“As Mr. Turner said in his first email to me on February 22, 2013 ‘I’ve been reading your fantastic book, Invisible Darkness, which has helped my understanding of the case immensely. As someone who knows the case and has had direct contact with Karla Homolka, I feel you could offer valuable insight into the case and it would be wonderful to hear from you.’

“To my one line reply asking how I might be of service Mr. Turner said ‘We’d love to interview you for the documentary if that is of interest to you. Any advice you could offer for our own research would also be appreciated.’

Then on February 26 he said ‘Looking at our schedule, the crew is planning to be in Ontario from Wednesday 27th of March to Sunday 31st. Are any of these days convenient for you for the sit-down interview?’

“You might want to review the entire correspondence.

“A great deal of my time has been gratuitously wasted. When it came time to negotiate appearance fees and expenses Mr. Turner, with considerable corporate bombast, he gregariously explained, at length, the TwoFour Studio’s nickel and dime policy.

“Thinking your studio honorable and bona fide and in the interest of getting the story right for the European market I reluctantly agreed to the terms for reimbursement for the bare minimum expenses and nothing else. In return for this agreement, obviously considered by Mr. Turner’s superiors as too generous, I was dismissed.

“I was supposed to be in Boston this week and next. Mr. Turner told me unequivocally that I was going to be involved and I believed him. I rearranged my schedule at considerable expense to accommodate the ‘Born to Kill’ crew in Toronto between March 28th and the 31st.”

In the letter I go on to discuss “breach of contract” and “proprietary rights” inherent in copyrighted material: “Because the case was so complicated and so old, it would be virtually impossible for your lawyers or American lawyers and perhaps, today, even most Canadian lawyers (except for the three or four who did the legal work on both my books) to determine the extent of those rights and if they are infringed. It is virtually impossible to do anything substantial on this case without infringement.

“For example, Mr. Turner explained that the guiding narrative for “Born to Kill” series was the nature v. nurture dialectic. If someone in the segment you are cobbling together were to speculate whether Karla was “mad or just bad” that could constitute an infringement of my rights.

“One of the reasons that the Hollywood movie “Karla” was such a disaster is that the director and producer Michael Sellers was compelled to leave half of what he shot on the cutting room floor because he repeatedly infringed my rights.

“Mr. Sellers was also compelled to pay considerable compensation for assuming he could do his project without consultation with me and/or my agents and the bona fide Hollywood producer who at that time owned the motion picture rights which have since reverted to me. We found it remarkable that Mr. Sellers actually shot his entire movie either thinking that we would not notice or “naively” assuming that no one would raise objection. It is a testament to Mr. Sellers level of competence and his standing within the motion picture and television community that he did.

“For example, one of the things Mr. Sellers had to leave on the cutting room floor was a character based on Dr. Hans Arndt and the entire narrative sub-plot of his controversial, complicated relationship with Karla.

“Dr. Arndt’s relationship, opinions and assessments do not exist anywhere else other than in my books because I had an exclusive arrangement and agreement with him and he died years ago, tragically, a very youthful and fit 60-year-old, without ever speaking to anyone else about the case.

“If you require any more information, I will be happy to provide it. I look forward to your response,

“Sincerely, Sw

STRANGERS AND OTHER ANNIVERSARIES – PART III

DSCN05531-001Back to the Parisian producer who showed up at my remote farm door one dark winter’s day this January. “No, Ms. Ladous, you don’t come in,” I said.

Curiosity and my own vanity almost got the better of me but it was the “Truman Kaput; just like you and me” that brought me to my senses. There was some more terse incomprehensible imprecation as I was shutting the door but I was resolute that I was not going to entertain strangers unshaven and in my bathrobe. Also, as a man once besieged by media I long ago resolved not to allow anyone from the press (unless a friend invited for dinner) into my home. I long ago made it a rule that I would only give interviews or participate in a project from my hotel room in Toronto.

It occurred to me that Ms. Ladous must have gone to the Paula Todd School of Journalism where highjack and mendacity were main courses. But highjacking Karla Homolka, as we’ve seen, has a certain economic consequence but highjacking me? Where is the sense in that? Where are the $$ in Marina’s getting a few minutes of footage of me at the door in my bathrobe and pajama pants.

I was tempted though. I would have liked to explain that I have nothing in common with Truman Capote. He was a short man with a very large head, cross-addicted and a homosexual who wrote like an angel. I can only lay claim to one of those characteristics.

I would have also liked to know where she got the money for a transatlantic flight (for two) and how whatever she might do with this twenty-year-old case would ever square up and justify the time and expense?

As I’ve already described late last year, Ms. Ladous, a petite, dark-haired French woman reached out to Marsha via email and begged her to have me call her, so I did. Basically all I got a chance to ask was for more information about her “project”. The phone call occurred on Dec. 4, 2012. Here’s her email response to my verbal request which I received the following day:

“Following yesterday’s phone call I join you a “résumé” of the producer’s documentary movie…” And then some things similar to what she said on the phone: “To be a journalist in these circumstances is also something I want to show. In the documentary I want to follow Karla Homolka’s and Paul Bernardo’s criminal courses…I also imagine that there are questions without answer in this case, important points of detail deserving to be investigated and that could enlighten the public on this story…” blog.strangersand.marinaladous.resumelg

And then this: “For example, according to an investigator, Karla Homolka’s mother suspected that Tammy’s death was connected to Paul Bernardo, but she said nothing, is it true? We speak about battered women’s syndrome for Karla Homolka’s case, but according to an investigator, what she showed throughout this story is not compatible with the battered women’s syndrome, or the mental influence in state of suggestion. I have just finished a movie about this. The way she lives now days also proves that she does not deny nor regret her past, otherwise why was called TEALE? I read your books. I know that your testimony joins totally in my story. I shall be in Toronto on January 11th, I shall want to come back with you on the scene from this incredible file(case) that you know better that whoever.
Waiting for your answer.
Respectfully yours.
Marina L.”

I have embedded a jpg. copy of the “resume” Ms. Ladous “joined” at the top of this post. (Just off-the-cuff: It is very odd to me that almost everything I’ve seen from television people these days is printed on dark backgrounds and in an eligible font. What’s up with that?)

What she called a resume was in reality a “pitch” document in very broken English but it made a wacky kind of sense, sort of. I got the gist. It was written in the third person and began by explaining the logos at the top of the page:

“‘Lila production’ is a production comany co-developing feature movies and TV series. ‘Magneto Presse’ is a press agency producing high-quality documentaries for all major TV channels and ’13eme Rue’, owned by Universial, has commissioned us to produce ‘Marina aux pays des tueurs’ A series of 90 minutes documentaries revisiting cases involving killers around the world: Juarez, Mexico, Sweden, the Linkoping missing, French cold cases.
Marina Ladous a well-known expert in investigative reporting is the director.
In 2012, she filmed in Bagdad, Iraq. In the end of 2012, she finished a 90 minutes film about dangerous cults. In worldwide for the needs of her investigation, she was an undercover adept in different cults, and it too her a year work. She is also the director of ‘The French in front of law’ a series about difficult cases involving lawyers and judges in court. She also filmed in prison, ‘Dangerous Inmates’.
In 2006, she realized a film with FBI testimony, about Dayton Rogers, a Green-River killer copycat….”
It concludes “It has been five years since Marina speaks to us of this file. (sic. the Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo files mentioned in the mid-paragraphs.) She followed year after year the evolutions. The new life of Karla? The cold-case who could involve Paul Bernardo? The human implications of the policeman, the magistrates, the lawyers, the journalists and the witnesses. Can we emerge unscathed from this?
Marina’s experience of the criminal world makes her say that in spite of past years nobody forgot neither, Leslie or Kristen, neither Jane Doe, nor the January girl and 43 victims of Scarborough.
To decipher the criminal world is also a way to warn.
The shooting of the movie will begin on January 3rd, 2013.
We thank you in advance for the assistance you may agree to grant us.
Sincerely.
Yael Berdugo, Producer.”

I have tried to embed “live” links to the two television programs Ms. Ladous allegedly produced or worked for in this post without success. No idea why so I am just typing them in. The first about a retired elite cop living in seclusion after the brutal murder of his wife. A judge visits him to try and convince him to investigate two unsolved horrific murders. Hard to say whether this is a documentary or a re-creation: http://www.cinando.com/DefaultController.aspx?PageId=FicheFilm&IdC=11189&IdF=85915

The second about a murderer in Lyon, France called “At the Heart of Crime” hosted by Carole Rosseau: http://www.leblogtvnews.com/article-au-coeur-du-crime-avec-carole-rousseau-l-affaire-ortiz-46397949.html

I wrote back to Ms. Ladous on December 5, 2012:

“I’d be pleased to assist you in whatever way I can with the making of your documentary.
There are a few things I need to know and need for you to appreciate….” [Note: I have very specific but I think eclectic tastes in television programs and don’t want to be involved with anything that I do not understand or that I would not watch nor anything in which my input is not valued. Participating in the making of television programs, short or long, can be very time-consuming and expense-generating.]
“You told me you have read ‘Karla.’ I would not necessarily know that otherwise.
Would it be helpful to you were I able to get a French version to pass on?…. Your question about Dorothy Homolka, Karla’s mother: I don’t know who your source “investigator” is (there are a number of ill-informed people who persist in opinionating on the internet through various list-serves without even a basic working knowledge of the case) but I can tell you definitively that Mrs. Homolka did not suspect Tammy Lyn’s death was connected to either Bernardo or Karla until a good two years after the fact.

At that point of Karla’s violent separation from Mr. Bernardo, Mrs. Homolka knew something was very amiss but Karla did not tell her mother definitively until much later when her psychiatrist Dr. Hans Arndt “assisted” her composition of a comprehensive letter of confession.

Mrs. Homolka never suspected either of them had anything to do with Tammy Lyn’s death. My researcher conducted long conversations with Dorothy Homolka. Mrs. Homolka is not media-friendly, never has been and has never granted a formal interview to anyone except us.

If you knew Mrs. Homolka you would know that if she suspected such a thing she would never have sat back and accepted the coroner’s terribly flawed report that stated Tammy Lyn’s death was “accidental”.

If she knew anything she would have sounded the alarm and made sure the situation was resolved. She is not the kind of woman to keep anything to herself, including her opinions. She has many.
I could make time for you in January. What is your budget? I cannot collaborate for free, so how much of my time I could devote to you and your project depends on your budget. Let me know.

Nice to talk to you and thank you for your interest. I hope it’s a little warmer in France (I did not catch exactly where you are) at the moment than it is here in Toronto. Don’t forget your parka and toque and mittens. It’s damned cold in January in Toronto.”

A bit long you say. Perhaps, but it’s one of my pathologies that when engaged and confronted with ignorant questions or statements, I tend to go on. This is one of the reasons that I am shy of engagement and wary of strangers.

Doubly odd then, that this wayward stranger from the borderless and stateless land of Television would forsake the urbane pleasures of Paris, transverse the mighty Atlantic Ocean, make her way 90 miles northwest of Toronto in the worst snowstorm of the year to find three feet of snow accumulated in our quarter-mile long lane, had not taken the hint that the gods were against her enterprise and knock on our door. I enjoined Ms. Ladous to contact me by phone or email so that the questions I had could be answered and we could set up a proper session as I closed the door.

The local radio station was describing the school and road closures and they were legion. When we went out an hour later to go to town for supplies it was still snowing. There was no trace of Marina Ladous or her cameraman. If Marsha had not been there I would have thought I was hallucinating. I have not heard from or seen Marina Ladous again and a Google search of her name only turns up this blog?

STRANGERS AND STRANGE ANNIVERSAIRIES – PART II

2009_0303stehenscamera0038I’ll come back to the woman from France and how that played out.

This past Friday, February 15, 2013 I got an email from the crime reporter for Global Television, Catherine McDonald. Catherine told me something that I could hardly believe: It was the 20th anniversary of Paul Bernardo’s arrest. The problem is, for me, it happened yesterday. I was sitting in my studio reading a long newspaper report about Bernardo’s arrest. Deep in the copy it said that Bernardo was married to a young woman from St. Catharines. I jotted down a note to a couple of publishers I knew. It asked who this young wife was and what she was doing all the while Bernardo was out allegedly raping and pillaging? I fashioned it as a book proposal and faxed it off. (Was there email in 1993? If there was it was not ubiquitous – the obsolete fax was the fastest medium). It was Sunday. By Monday evening I had a book deal.

This compression of time (and space, because there is very much a spatial aspect to memory) can be discombobulating. Further, I sense there is some kind of renaissance of interest in the Paul and Karla cases, as though they are perpetually going through generational rediscovery. (Or else what was the young French woman at my door?) This is curious to me because there are no heroes in that seaweed and there are no lessons to be learned from the tragic expression of Paul and Karla’s darkest natures. For some one who was fully prepared to move on and never think about any of the details again by early winter 1998, I found myself parroting Michael Corleone in “Godfather III”: “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!”

On the upside, I have noticed a decided up tick in the sales of my books in both in Canada and the United States which is something quite remarkable given that “Invisible Darkness: The Horrifying Case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka” was published 15 years ago and “Karla: A Pact with the Devil” in 2003 – 2004. At any rate, Catherine wanted me to do a “hit” – give her a comment or two on camera. She said she was at the courthouse covering some current malfeasance – I think it was the anesthesiologist who is alleged to have sexually assaulted dozens of female patients after he put them under for various surgeries over the past dozen years.

Canadians seem to have a purchase on the most peculiar and bizarre crimes – I have never heard of anything like the crimes this doctor is accused of perpetrating in any other country in the world; similarly there is no series of crimes so deviant and peculiar as those Colonel Russell Williams confessed to, not to mention Paul and Karla’s trespasses, unique, as far as I know, in the annals of criminal behavior.

Catherine explained that Paul Bernardo’s erstwhile defense lawyer John Rosen was conveniently in the courthouse defending some other miscreant and had agreed to say something and she thought I would make the ideal counterpart.

Catherine is a vivacious and persuasive woman who just happens to be married to a good friend of mine, Adrian Montgomery, and she is also eight-and-a-half months pregnant. Although I really have never had any particular interest in Paul Bernardo who I’ve always seen as a callow pawn in Karla’s game, a kind of fern bar habitué gone very wrong, it’s hard to say no to Catherine. However, when she found out I was at the farm and did not intend to come into Toronto that day, as I had indicated to Adrian I was going to be earlier in the week – I believe I said to him “I am going to be at Ciao (the Yorkville bar and eatery where the partisans gather every Friday evening in Toronto,) come Hell or high water, on February 15.” For emphasis I said “I’m a third generation Torontonian. My grandfather had a butcher shop at the corner of Eglinton and Spadina; legend has it I was born on the loading dock of Marty Millionaire’s at the corner of Queen and Parliament. (See Sandra Martin’s profile in “Toronto Life,” October 2004) The fact that I don’t have a pied-a-terre in the city and the mobility to come and go as I please is a tragedy of epic proportion: Diligently working to rectify that situation – it’s what keeps me going.”

I meant what I said except my beloved paramour Marsha Boulton and I had been traveling for a couple of days, visiting old friends who own wineries in the Niagara Peninsula and Marsha was tired and did not feel like a trip to the city and she trumps Hell and high water.

Catherine said she could not possibly come up to the farm – there was simply no time – she had to have the piece done and finished for Global’s six o’clock news broadcast and hung up.

When I told Marsha about Catherine and the anniversary of Paul Bernardo’s arrest she was willing to make an exception so I called Catherine back and made arrangements to meet her at the Global studios as soon as I could get there – which would probably be around 4:00 PM. That would work.

With no time to indulge any nostalgia – I’m not much for nostalgia anyway but 10 years involvement in the morass that became the Bernardo and Homolka disaster for me, it is sometimes hard to stave off, we hurriedly packed, kept our reservation at the Metropolitan Hotel and furiously made a rather uneventful 2 1/2 hour drive. We arrived at the studios on Barber Green at about 4:10PM.

I saw the piece at 11:30 PM in our hotel room that night. I was on air for about 25 seconds. Rosen got 40. It wasn’t profound but it was nostalgic.

2009_0303stehenscamera0035

STRANGERS AND STRANGE ANNIVERSARIES

DSCN05531-001Two somewhat strange Bernardo/Homolka related things have happened to me since New Years.

To fully understand how unusual the first occurrence was you have to appreciate that I live in virtual seclusion on a rockscrabble farm about 90 miles northwest of Toronto. Connecticut is a similar distance from New York but North Wellington is no Connecticut. Originally settled by poor Irish escaping the Potato Famine, the land in this area was the last to be apportioned because of its poor quality. A good deal of gravel and sand mixed with arable soil, it doesn’t stop the Mennonites or descendants of the original settlers. There are still more farmers than urban refugees and it has an authentic bucolic charm .The house is a two-storey built with yellow bricks that were fired more than 100 years ago and even though it sits on a hilltop you cannot see it from the road because of dense forest that surrounds the pasture and gardens. Many of our friends still don’t know exactly where we live and cannot find their way here without comprehensive directions. The last unexpected visitors we had were the police when they “raided” the old farm house at 6 AM on Sunday morning, May 11, 2003 and arrested me – at gun point – for the alleged offence of breaching court orders on my website to do with the recent publication of “Karla: A Pact with the Devil.” May 11, 2003: Very soon to be 10 years ago.

Police deliberately develop a heavy knock. This knock was similar. The 10 years vanished and we were back in that early May morning kitchen.

When I reluctantly approached the door, I could hear some commotion on the other side. I was wearing a long terrycloth bathrobe and flimsy black pajama pants and an old T-shirt so I gathered the robe together and partially opened the door. There stood a petite dark-haired women and a man with a television camera. She exclaimed “OUI ALLO’ Stephan, c’est moi, Marina Ladous, documentary director, I am here! From France!”

For the first thirty seconds I was clueless and speechless. Didn’t matter. She was in full flight and given her heavy French ellipses, somewhat difficult to understand: “Remember you phone me. I join you a resume of the producer’s documentary movie. As I explain to you, my purpose is not to make numerous movies, about the Homolka-Bernardo files but to study the facts as they occurred. I want to depict the fact one by one. Try to understand how can I. I’m just like you. Like Truman Kaput! To be a journalist in these circumstances is also something I want to show. In the documentary I want to follow Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo’s criminal courses. I also imagine that there are questions without answer in this case; I come in.”

It was a cold winter day in late January and overnight snow had filled the laneway. The pair – both distinctly un-Parisan and underdressed – had walked the quarter mile from the concession road.