Karla Homolka: Crime & Not so Much Punishment
I’m going to resist the temptation to go off on a tangent about my personal life right now and I’m just going to dive right into the story of Karla Homolka and her then husband Paul Bernardo. These two are a real class act, so get comfy and let me tell you their story (okay…mainly Karla’s).
Karla Leanna Homolka was born on May 4, 1970 in Port Credit Ontario, Canada. She had a normal upbringing with a hardworking mother and father. She had two little sisters, Lori (born in 1971), and Tammy (born in 1975). For most of her young life her family lived in St. Catherines, Ontario. She worked part time at a pet shop while in high school and did eventually go onto graduate in 1988. She was soon hired by Thorold Veterinary Clinic as a vet assistant. Karla later took a similar job at the Martindale Animal Clinic.
It all seems fine and dandy at this point, right? Well…this was the high point in her life. She is about to go downhill very quickly.
The young, vibrant, and beautiful Karla met her future husband (yes,she was still in high school) while at a pet convention in Toronto (1987). He was 23 while she was still only 17. She immediately embraced and encouraged his sadomasochistic behavior. This was in October and he proposed on December 24 of that year. Everyone LOVED Paul and the pair spent a lot of time with the Homolka family but when no one was looking he was a flagrant flirt with the youngest Homolka daughter, Tammy. Red flags! Red flags! Red flags!
Over the next couple of years Paul took on a new role - he became the Scarborough Rapist. Obviously no one knew that it was him at this point but he was the perpetrator. The most sickening part is that he was committing these atrocious crimes with Homolka’s approval! His signature style that linked these assaults was his preference to attack women getting off buses, then raping them anally, and forcing them to do other humiliating acts for his pleasure. I don’t what it is about the “raping them anally” that freaks me out so fucking much but it just makes my skin crawl. Now I want to vomit - thanks Paul.
During their hot and heavy relationship, Bernardo’s feathers were always ruffled because Homolka wasn’t a virgin when they met. That didn’t stop them from having sex constantly but it was not what he preferred. Creep. So, Karla concocted a most vile plan. She would “give” Paul her baby sister Tammy as a “surrogate virgin”. Tammy was only 15-years-old at the time. Really, no matter how old her sister had been at the time this would have been heinous. But 15! She’s still a baby!
This was their plan: At the family Christmas party on December 23, 1990 they would serve Tammy alcoholic drinks that were spiked with Halcion (a drug used to treat insomnia, so she was going to be knocked out cold!) . Where did she get the drugs you might ask? Well, remember where she worked? She worked at a vet clinic and stole the drugs. After the other Homolka family members went to bed for the evening, Karla and Paul took Tammy down into the basement and held a cloth soaked in Halothane up to her mouth. Halothane is an inhalation anesthetic for the induction and maintenance of general anesthesia. Once little Tammy was totally out…Paul raped her while Tammy helped, watched, and recorded the event.
During “the event”, Tammy began to vomit and choke and eventually died. The couple attempted to revive her but were not successful. They went about tidying up their “mess” and hiding any evidence of their crime before carefully tucking Tammy into a bed that was in the basement.
Then they called 911.
The picture I am about to share is of her postmortem state. She has burns on her face from where the Halothane rag was held to it and she is bruised and bloody. I’ll leave some space before and after so you can scroll past and not have to dwell on the image.
Heartbreaking, isn’t it? I don’t understand how people can do this kind of thing to strangers, but to your own sister!? Fucking monsters, man.
After being taken to the hospital she was pronounced dead and her death was ruled an accident. The drugs that Karla and Paul had plied her system with were never detected. The Niagara Regional Coroner determined her death to be from “choking on her vomit after consumption of alcohol.” Because it was ultimately ruled an accident and the coroner saw nothing “suspicious” they didn’t run a tox-screen. I guess the burns and bruises to her face weren’t suspicious enough for them. How do you see that face and think NOTHING nefarious happened?
While the Homolka family began to grieve, Karla and Paul stayed up doing laundry, vacuuming, and cleaning up their crime scene. No one thought that was weird? Absolutely no one?
O! and before I move on with the story let me just say that after Tammy’s death, Karla and Paul would put on her clothes and mock her. They even filmed it and made a kind of game out of it.
Karla and Paul did eventually move out to their own rented bungalow to give her parents some space to grieve. Nicest thing they’ve done so far.
The evil deeds just keep coming.
After getting settled in their new love nest, Bernardo began to blame Karla for her sister’s death. He was upset because now “she was no longer around for him to enjoy sexually”. Karla determined that he needed another surrogate virgin. So, she found “Jane Doe”. This girl is the only one to survive the pairs sexual assault but she has never been identified because she was underage when the attack happened.
“Jane” was a teenager who looked up to Homolka and somewhat idolized her. Homolka took the young lady out to dinner where she put a similar plan into action as she did with Tammy. She plied Jane with spiked drinks, invited her back to her home with Paul, then held the Halothane soaked rag up to her face before she passed out.
Jane was savagely attacked by both Paul and Karla. And yep, they taped the whole thing so they could relive it over and over and over again. Unlike Tammy, Jane woke up the next day. She was very sore, battered, and bone-tired but she had no memory of what happened to her. Thank God!! Okay, I have a serious question to ask here; When something like this happens and your conscious brain doesn’t remember the event, does your unconscious brain still retain “something”? She must have known something happened because of the state that she woke up in but - does she have zero memory of it for sure? Just a question - I’m not a psychologist so I honestly have no idea.
Bernardo was so delighted to have a depraved partner in crime that he went out on the night of June 15, 1991 to find another victim. He found 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy.
She had been locked out of her house by her parents because she had missed curfew and couldn’t find anyone to let her stay over. You know her parents and friends must be riddled with guilt? I can’t imagine the torture they must put themselves through. Even all these years later. Bernardo walked right up to Leslie and told her that he was going to “rob one of these houses”. She didn’t react in the slightest and just asked to bum a cigarette. Like water off a duck’s back. Who care’s right?
He told her that he had some in his car and the two walked back. He then shoved her in, blindfolded her, and took her back home where Karla waited. He announced to Karla that he found another “playmate for her!”. He sounds like an excited kid that just made a new best friend. Awful. Awful. Disgustingly awful.
In their signature style, the couple videotaped themselves torturing and sexually assaulting Leslie. They tied her hands with twine, sodomized her, and just….tortured her. I don’t want to go into more detail about exactly HOW they tortured this beautiful girl but it was gruesome and gave me nightmares. You can look it up yourself if you are absolutely curious.
At some point, the blindfold they had on her slipped off. They were afraid that she would be able to identify them so they couldn’t let her go. Damn blindfold. But she had seen Paul’s face before so I don’t really buy that they were planning on letting her go. There are differing accounts about how Leslie died and who did it. Bernardo claims that Karla fed her a lethal dose of Halcion but Karla claims that Paul strangled her. The one thing that was very clear was that they dismembered her, encased pieces of her body in cement blocks, and dropped the pieces in Lake Gibson. About 18 km or 11 miles from their home.
Afterwards, the couple went out for a nice dinner with the Homolka family.
They might have gotten away with this heinous crime if a large chunk of the concrete blocks hadn’t come to rest on the shore where it was discovered. I think it was a father and son who discovered it but now I can’t find that little piece of information.
Her body was discovered on the same day that Paul and Karla got married. June 29, 1991. A weird bit that I read about their wedding was the vows. Paul made Karla say this little speech that he had prepared about promising to “love, honor, and most importantly OBEY” her new husband. Creep. Creep. Creep.
Her body was identified by dental records.
Thank God there is only one victim left to discuss.
Kristen French was a 15-year-old girl who was walking home from school on the afternoon of April 16, 1992. She tended to hurry home after school because she had to take care of her dog. That’s so sweet. Reminds me of me when I was in school. I always wanted to get home so fast so I could see my dog - a rat terrier named Pucky.
Paul and Karla came upon the teen as she was walking through a parking lot. They pulled over to ask for directions. Okay, I’ve heard this a bunch before but I am going to repeat it here: Adults Never Need Help From a Child! Even a teenager! Just keep walking!
Karla lured her to the car and shoved her into the front seat. Paul was driving and Karla sat in the back and would pull on Kristen’s hair to keep her under control.
Kristen’s parents became concerned very soon after she didn’t come home from school and called the police. Within 24-hours a full team was assembled by the Niagara Regional Police (NRP). They worked hard and fast and found multiple eye witnesses to the abduction as well as one of Kristen’s shoes.
True to form, Paul and Karla videotaped themselves torturing, raping, sodomizing, and just being fucking evil. They never intended to let Kristen go because she was never blindfolded. So they said. Her death was planned from day one.
The torture went on for days. They finally killed her on April 19. At that point, I would bet that death came as a relief. Poor sweet baby angel. Once again, the manner of her death depends on who you ask. Paul claims that Karla beat her with a mallet and strangled her with a noose. Karla claims that Paul strangled her and she timed it.
It took seven minutes.
After the murder, they happily trotted off to Easter family dinner with the Homolka family. Everything is happy, fine, and wonderful! No sinister deeds here! All of that hard work builds up an appetite.
Kristen’s body was discovered on April 30, 1992 about 45-minutes outside of town in a ditch. The pair had treated her body different than Leslie by stripping her naked, washing her thoroughly, and cutting off all of her hair. It was suspected that they had cut off her hair as a trophy but Karla later told police that it was to hinder the identification of her body. The only “upside” to this disposal was that she was in on piece.
Life went on as normal for Paul and Karla. They requested to have their surnames changed to Teale, after a character from one of their favorite movies - Criminal Law (1988). In between their attacks on young girls, Paul would viciously physically abuse Karla. The most severe beating occurred after he beat her with a heavy flashlight on her arms, legs, head, and face. Karla was hospitalized after this incident. She told everyone who asked that she had been in a car accident.
No one deserves to be beaten but I don’t really feel that sorry for her.
Karla escaped Paul with the help of her family and filed charges against him, claiming to be a battered spouse. He was arrested but soon released. The only good thing that came from this brief incarceration was that his DNA was put into the system. It was then compared to DNA samples taken from the Scarborough Rapist case - in which Paul was a suspect. He had been interviewed in the case but was not high on the suspect list.
Over the next two months, authorities waited for the result of the DNA and Karla was living with relatives in Brampton. An aunt and uncle I believe.
Then the results were in. Paul was the Scarborough Rapist. Immediately, 24-hour surveillance was put on Paul. Karla was then interviewed by the Metro Toronto Sexual Assault Squad where they told her about their suspicions. She turned the interview from the women he assaulted back towards herself and the abuse SHE suffered. She obviously didn’t give one fuck about those women and was just centered on herself. Surprisingly, Karla did later confess to the relatives she was staying with that she knew Paul was the Scarborough Rapist and that he had been involved in the deaths of Leslie and Kristen. She even admitted to taping everything. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for that conversation, don’t you? If my niece confessed something like that I think I would be so dumbstruck I wouldn’t be able to say anything. I’d probably just pass the fuck out.
Random fact interruption - the couple’s name change was approved on February 13, 1993. Everyone still knows them as Bernardo and Homolka, though.
In mid February of 1993 The Metro Sexual Assault Squad and The Green Ribbon Task Force arrested Bernardo. They had procured a warrant to search his home but it had strict limitations:
No evidence that was not expected and already documented was to be removed from the home
All video tapes must be viewed at the house
Damage to the house had to be kept to a minimum. They could not tear the walls down to search for hidden tapes or evidence.
The search lasted for 71 days and the only tape that was recovered was one of Homolka performing oral sex on the unconscious Jane Doe. That’s still pretty fucking disturbing. Here’s a bothersome bit - after the warrant expired on April 30, 1993, Bernardo told his lawyer where the tapes were so he could retrieve them. They were hidden behind a light in the bathroom. His lawyer then didn’t release them to the court or anyone else.
Plea bargain negotiations started with Homolka. The Canadian government got a ton of flack for this deal. It was and is regarded as one of the worst plea deals in Canadian history. The government offered her a 12-year sentence if she would testify against Bernardo, provide statements, and hand over more evidence. The agreement was finalized a week later and she started giving statements to the police.
Almost all of her statements revolved around her being a victim of Bernardo’s as well. That she was battered and forced to participate in these egregious acts. Once the tapes were FINALLY turned over to other parties involved it was noted that she didn’t act like she was being forced or coerced. She seemed to be “enjoying” herself and acting under her own free will. This is a sticking point for so many people - myself included!
While all of these hearings and what not were underway, there was a ban put out on all media preventing them from telling the story - or their versions of the story. Bernardo’s lawyers wanted him to have a chance at a fair trial. News was still leaked through American outlets though and found it’s way back to Canada. The couple’s crimes were widely known and publicized. They were known as “The Ken and Barbie Killers”, a “demonic duo”, it was rumored they practiced vampirism, and a comic was created based on Karla called, “Karla’s Web”. Which featured Homolka’s confessions. To make a comic of her acts and confessions seems a bit too far. but to each their own I guess.
May 18, 1993 charges were officially pressed against both Paul and Karla.
Paul Bernardo was charged with two counts each of kidnapping, unlawful confinement, aggravated sexual assault, and first degree murder as well as dismemberment.
Karla Homolka was charged with two counts of manslaughter. That definitely seems “light”.
The controversial tapes were not played during the trial but the audio was played in snippets. During the trial, Bernardo case was mainly upheld by his statement that, Yes, he did rape those women but Karla is the one who actually killed them. Despite his testimony to the contrary - Homolka escaped the central blame for the deaths. She would not be sitting right next to Bernardo, rotting in prison.
A Judge issued a statement:
Paul Bernardo was found guilty on all parts. Not a huge surprise there. He received life in prison on September 1, 1995. Karla Homolka went off to Kingston’s Prison for Women.
While Karla was in prison, her mother started having some serious mental health issues. Understandably. She started suffering from mental breakdowns that would often lead her to being hospitalized. Can anyone really blame her? Her oldest daughter had a hand in her youngest daughter’s murder. Being a mother myself - I can’t, and don’t want to, even imagine something like this happening.
While her mother suffered, Homolka thrived. She did wonderful in the highly structured environment of prison. It was even rumored that she started up a lesbian relationship with another inmate. During her incarceration, Homolka was evaluated by multiple psychologists and psychiatrists who all had similar things to say about her; She “remains something of a diagnostic mystery. Despite her ability to present herself well, there is a moral vacuity in her which is difficult, if not impossible to explain.” The experts agreed that she showed signs of true spousal abuse but were suspicious that she had picked up on some cues from books. That takes some serious acting chops, wouldn’t you say?
Karla Homolka did work hard while in prison, no one can deny that. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Queen’s University, she took every course and participated in every program recommended by the courts (except for one that was designed for male sex offenders. She refused, on the grounds that she was neither male nor a sex offender).
She began to gear up for her release on July 4, 2005. That prison sentence seemed to go by awful fast, didn’t it? There were strict condition put upon her for her release:
She was to tell police her home address, work address, and with whom she was living
She was required to notify police as soon as any of the above changed
She was likewise required to notify police of any change to her name
If she planned to be away from home for more than 48 hours, she had to give 72 hours notice.
She could not contact Bernardo, or the families of Leslie Mahaffy or Kristen French or the Jane Doe woman or any violent criminals
She was forbidden to be with people under the age of 16 and not to consume drugs besides prescription ones.
She was required to continue therapy and counselling
She was required to provide police with a DNA sample
For each point broken, Homolka was subject to two years in prison.
BUT GUESS WHAT!?
A judge lifted all of those restrictions a few months later stating that there was not enough evidence to justify them! This woman was seen on video sexually assaulting these girls - including her sister - but THERE WASN’T ENOUGH EVIDENCE!? Are you fucking kidding me…apparently not because when she was released, she was just free. 100% free to do whatever the fuck she wanted.
She immediately went on a French speaking TV show in Canada to give an interview, with her mother and lawyer in tow. Neither said a word during the interview.
I would think that her mother feels very conflicted about showing any support for Karla. On the one hand, she IS her daughter but on the other, she helped facilitate the murder of her other daughter. I would bet my life savings that she believes Karla was “under the control” of Bernardo 100% and didn’t act of her own accord. At least that’s probably what she tells herself. That would be easier to admit myself than the horrible truth that my daughter killed my other daughter in a vicious, evil, brutal manner.
Since Homolka had no restrictions on her whatsoever, she just lived her life. She went on to marry her lawyer’s brother, becoming Leanne Bordelais (I’ve also seen her called Emily Bordelais). They had two sons and one daughter together (there were multiple reports that some nurses flat out refused to help her during her pregnancy, labor, and delivery. I don’t know how I feel about that. That baby (babies) were totally innocent in everything. They still needed care and attention, even when they were in the womb).
The biggest news revolving around Karla Homolka was the news that she was volunteering at her children’s school in Montreal. She was working with children on school premises and supervising field trips. Once her true identify was uncovered, the public was outraged! I would be! She has a right to be involved in her children’s lives but she should not be allowed to volunteer in a place like a school! Threat or not, I would not at all feel comfortable having her around my children. Can’t trust her.
A poll was taken of 9,521 people to gather their opinions on whether or not Karla deserves anonymity.
63.27% believed that they had the right to know where Karla was
18.57% believed that she deserved anonymity
18.16% believed that she could earn anonymity in about 50 years (I think I agree with this one)
So many people wanted to know her every move that a Facebook page was started called “Watching Karla Homolka” where they do just that. They track her. There is also a petition floating around to have her name added to the sex offender registry - it has a whopping 38,500 signatures so far!
SOOO - Karla did the crime, helped to rape and murder those girls, did minimal time and is now out. She is free to live her life with only the critical eye of the public to watch her.
Karla Homolka deserves a seat right next to Paul Bernardo. She doesn’t deserve to be off happily ever after. What about her sister Tammy? What about Leslie? And what about Kristen? None of them get to live happily ever after. Will she ever re-offend? Maybe. Maybe not. But I wouldn’t want a predator like her walking the streets with my loved ones.
What’s your opinion of the Crimes & Not so much Punishment for Karla Homolka?
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If you liked this post, I would like to invite you to read some others:
Gordon Cummins: The Story of a Sexual Psychopath (True Crime)
Who was Kaspar Hauser? (Mystery)
Mary Vincent: The Girl Who Lived (True Crime - The MOST popular post! You really should check this one out)
Things Made Out of Humans (Weird History)
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