by Patrick H. Moore
In early January of 1993, Karla Homolka, after enduring a particularly brutal beating at the hands of fellow serial killer Paul Bernardo – at the urging of her family – made the life-altering decision to escape from the shadow of Bernardo’s strangely domineering personality once and for all. In this post, we will trace Karla’s “two steps forward, one step back” progress and forays into sexual decadence, not to mention drug and alcohol abuse, during this period, even as she clearly discerns that the Crown desperately needs her to testify against Bernardo to build a case against him.
There is little doubt in my mind that shortly after leaving Bernardo, Karla realized that she was in the perfect position to help engineer the “sweetheart” Plea Deal that resulted in a mere 12-year prison sentence, and has enraged both Canadian and American followers of this compelling case. In effect, Karla did everything in her power to “stack the deck” in her favor. She did this by playing the “victim,” minimizing her own guilt, dropping clues as to the existence of the damning videotape, ingratiating herself with law enforcement, and generally playing the “little lost girl” while simultaneously making herself indispensable to the Crown. Dark, evil and twisted though she was, Karla was nobody’s fool.
On January 10, 1993, Karla moved in with her Uncle Calvin and Aunt Patti Seger in Brampton in Ontario Province. Within a day or two of being given shelter by her concerned relatives, Karla – no doubt already planning how best to put her best foot forward — began keeping a detailed account of the abuse she had suffered in her diary. She also began making phone calls to some of Paul’s friends in an effort to keep tabs on his state of mind and behavior.
On January 19th, Karla returned home briefly to St. Catharines for an appointment with legal aid, a visit to her doctor and to have her hair done. We need hardly state that whatever her other concerns, personal vanity was never far from Karla’s mind.
Karla wrote in her diary on January 21st:
“So confused about what to do with my life…don’t know where I should live or what career I should choose; fear that I will go back to him. I wouldn’t in a million years. I’d rather go to jail…I miss being in the hospital. I should have stayed longer. Dr. Plaskos gave me more ativan; Oh yeah, I just remembered, Paul kicked me in the lower back and there was blood in my urine.”
Four days later, Karla again returned to St. Catharines to celebrate her father’s irthday and to consult with her new divorce lawyer, Virginia Workman.
On February 3rd, Detective Ron Whitfield of Metro Toronto’s Sex Assault Squad, after finding out that the Forensic Lab had positively identified Paul Bernardo as being the Scarborough Rapist, telephoned the Homolka residence and asked to speak to Karla. Karla was there but she did not take the call; instead, she directed her sister Lori and her mother Dorothy to speak with the detective. Detective Whitfield told Dorothy that it was urgent that he speak with her because Paul had been identified as a suspect in a major case.
This, of course, was the break that Karla had been waiting for. One can easily envision her licking her lips in anticipation. Also, in keeping with the behavior patterns of addicts of every ilk, Karla used this good news as an excuse to get to get laid. One can assume, that by this juncture, she had probably been celibate for at least four weeks, which for someone as hot-blooded (and cold-hearted) as Karla, must have felt like an eternity. In any event, after setting up an appointment to meet with the police the following week, on February 5th, Karla, her Aunt Patti, and a friend went to a Brampton bar called the Sugar Shack.
It would be interesting to know if it took Karla mere minutes, or an hour or two, but at the Sugar Shack, she met a man named Jim Hutton, with whom she spent the entire night dancing. Oddly, Jim bore a striking resemblance to Paul Bernardo. At the end of what must have been a very agreeable evening, Karla told Jim that she wanted to see him again and they agreed to meet there the following night.
When it came to sex, Karla was not one to “just say no” and – true to her word – she returned to the Sugar Shack to meet Jim. Jim was hours late but he eventually showed up and Karla was there to greet him. After the Shack closed, they wended their way to an after-hours club and from there, to the house of one of Jim’s friends. Jim’s buddy sacrificed his bed to the new couple. I can’t help wishing I had been a fly on the wall to view the fireworks. After it was over, Jim called a cab for Karla and sent her on her way.
On February 9th, Metro Police detectives Ron Whitfield, Mary-Lee Metcalfe and Bruce Smollet traveled to Brampton and met with Karla in an exhaustive five-hour debriefing session. The detectives had been given strict instructions to ask about the Mickey Mouse watch that appeared in the photograph taken of Karla at St. Catharines General Hospital after the brutal beating at Paul Bernardo’s hands that led to her leaving him. The detectives also insisted on taking a fingerprint sample. When Karla asked why they needed the sample, they would not answer.
In addition to answering law enforcement’s question, Karla provided a detailed account of the physical abuse she suffered at the hands of Paul. Again, one wishes to have been invisible but present in the room at the debriefing. It is important to keep in mind that Karla survived this most important meeting with no legal counsel present which would seem to speak volumes as to her poise and ability to present herself advantageously.
Nonetheless, after the exhausting session, Karla was visibly shaken and confessed to her aunt and uncle that Paul was the Scarborough Rapist and the School-Girl murderer. Then, as if she’d been biding her time, she immediately phoned the home of George Walker, a prominant Niagara Falls attorney whom she’d gotten to know while working at the animal clinic. Karla requested an appointment ASAP.
The next day, secure in the fact she had booked her appointment with Walker, Karla accepted Jim Hutton’s invitation to share a pizza. During their tete-a-tete, Karla mentioned that she was married and had recently left her husband. She also explained that he was responsible for her bruises. Jim appeared singularly disinterested in Karla’s past travails. What he was interested in was more sex, including possibly some anal, and they concluded the night by coupling after which Jim dropped her off where she was staying. Strangely, not only did Jim look like Paul; he drove the same late-model Nissan.
As the end of the 5-hour debriefing on February 9th, the police had offered to provide Karla with transportation should she need it. They kept their word on February 11th and drove Karla to Niagara Falls on this day to meet with George Walker. Karla apparently didn’t want her parents to know she was meeting with a criminal defense attorney. According to the record, on the way to Walker’s office, the three of them made small talk, a peculiar notion considering all that was at stake.
During her meeting with George Walker, Karla told him about the rapes and murders, including the death of her sister, Tammy-Lyn. She also described the video-tapes and how she had been unsuccessful in her attempt to locate them on the night she left Bayview Drive. Karla informed Walker that she was willing to testify against Bernardo — if Walker could get her blanket immunity. This outrageous desire on Karla’s part is indicative of her incredibly narcissistic personality. Walker told her that blanket immunity was probably a long shot, although the Battered Wife defense was a possibility. The problem was most battered women do not assist their partners in rapes and murders.
Later that same night, the Niagara Regional Police appeared at Walker’s door, tipping him off to the fact that they had been in contact with the Metro Toronto police. Detective Robert Gillies alluded to the fact that the Crown might be willing to work out a deal. Based on this, Walker agreed to meet with Crown attorney Ray Houlihan.
When Det. Gillies returned to Niagara Regional headquarters, Inspector Bevan, the head of the Green Ribbon Task Force, was waiting for him. Karla’s fingerprints matched prints found on the piece of map that had been discovered at the site of Kristen French’s abduction. Bevan obviously discerned that Karla had not come close to revealing the full scope of her involvement with Bernardo. The problem was there was no concrete evidence linking Paul to the abduction and murders of either Kristen French or Lynn Mahaffey.
From that point on, Karla was surveilled and a phone tap was discussed. The police also began tailing Bernardo. Inspector Bevan was tasked with working out the particulars of what would become the first plea deal proposed for Karla.
On February 13th, Karla returned to George Walker’s office. In the course of their conversation, he outlined the gravity of her involvement. In essence, he informed Karla that there was no possibility of her avoiding incarceration. Walker also told her that if she hoped to secure any kind of decent deal, it was imperative that she dump Jim Hutton and move back in with her parents.
Two days later, Jim and Karla got together at his apartment for their final encounter. Unsurprisingly, Karla was not her usual bubbly self. It is entirely possibly that up until the point at which George Walker had leveled with her, she had actually believed that she would miraculously escape prison time. She opened up just enough to tell Jim that some bad things had happened, things she was not yet able to speak of. Nonetheless, Jim allowed her to spend the night; they had marathon sex as if Karla realized this might be her last chance for a while to satisfy her constant craving.
Paul Bernardo’s Arrest and Its Aftermath
Paul Bernardo was arrested just before dinner time at his home on Bayview Drive on February 17th. Naturally, the news was all over the airwaves. The police informed the media that they were still searching for a second suspect when in reality Karla was that suspect.
During the days following Bernardo’s arrest, media coverage was exhaustive, including the enduring footage of Bernardo being led away from his home in hand-cuffs. The newspapers had a field day, plastering the story and everything related to it all over the front page and the local section as well. In these reports, the police are quoted as saying they are speaking to a woman who may have been involved in the deaths and that they are investigating another person of interest, who turned out to be Van Smirnis, Paul Bernardo’s best friend.
Karla meets with George Walker on February 19th and he informed her that this was just the beginning. At this point, the enormity of the situation finally got to Karla. Among other things, she was upset because the media knew all about her requests for immunity. Her parents were in total shock and Jim Hutton refused to talk to her.
Three days later, George Walker met with the Homolkas to discuss gathering bail money to the tune of around $100,000. The plan was that Karla would be arrested and would be let out on bail pending trial. With the help of family and friends, the Homolkas began scraping the money together.
Walker and Crown representative Murray Segal then hammered out the fine details of Karla’s plea deal. It was agreed that she would plead to two counts of manslaughter, each of which would carry a sentence of 10 years each, to be served concurrently. She was required to appear at Niagara Regional Headquarters on Saturday, February 27th to confess. Under the agreement, she would only serve 40 months behind bars. And from this point on, she would be required to make herself available to police at all times for questioning.
Even Karla had her breaking point. She spent the next day drinking heavily and was reportedly “three sheets to the wind” by dinner time. She was also on an assortment of anti-depressants which just made matters worse. Karla met with Walker at 7:00 p.m. to sign the formal plea-bargain. Walker realized Karla was not herself and was behaving strangely. He even thought she might be suicidal and decided to postpone the following day’s arraignment based on her state of mind.
Although Murray Segal ultimately added two years to Karla’s plea agreement, bringing it to the infamous 12 year figure, in reality, that meant that she would still only have to serve 52 months. (In actuality, because she was deemed a risk to re-offend, Karla was required to serve the lion’s share of the 12-year sentence.)
Karla’s state of mind remained precarious over the next week, and on March 4th, based on Walker’s advice, she was admitted to Northwestern General Hospital for psychiatric evaluation. She would remain there for the next seven weeks.
Note: Many of the factual details of the above post are based on Stephen Williams’ excellent book on the Karla Homolka case, “Invisible Darkness”. The interpretations of these facts are the work of Patrick H. Moore.
Click on the following links to read previous Karla posts:
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