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We seldom think of Canada as a place where violent crime finds a home. It’s a beautiful country with friendly, welcoming people, but one of those residents had a black soul that completely belied her lovely, beauty queen looks. That woman is Karla Homolka, and in the early 90’s, she and husband Paul Bernardo, raped and murdered three girls, with one of those three proving to be way more shocking than the others.
Karla was born in May, 1970, and grew up in Port Credit, Ontario. The oldest of three girls, she lived a typical Canadian childhood, raised in a happy family, and was, by all accounts, a smart, popular, and extremely well adjusted. She had a real affinity for animals and translated that love into a job as a veterinary assistant after she finished high school. That job led Karla to a Toronto pet convention where she met Paul Bernardo, a 23 year old, handsome blonde whose charming demeanor appealed to the 17 year old Homolka. The couple quickly became inseparable, and a mere 2 months after their initial meeting, Bernardo proposed.
During their time together, the pair quickly discovered that they shared the same sexual desires, both craving sado-masochistic rituals that involved Bernardo as master and Karla as his willing concubine. Sex became the focal point of their relationship and during this time, Paul became besotted with Karla’s 15 year old sister, Tammy. He often bemoaned the fact that Karla had not been a virgin when they met, and he started to focus on her sister as a replacement virgin. Willing to do anything to please her master, Karla served her sister halcyon laced cocktails during a family Christmas party. Once everyone else had left, the couple led Tammy to the basement, covered her moth with a Halothane soaked rag, and proceeded to rape her. During the assault, Tammy choked on her own vomit and passed away, but the drugs were not discovered during her autopsy and the death was ruled accidental.
Shortly after Tammy’s murder, the pair moved in together, but Bernardo quickly started complaining that he missed Tammy, and accused Karla of being responsible for her death. Eager to please her man, Karla soon found another young girl named Jane, and went through the ritual of spiking her drink before bringing her home to Paul. The girl was raped by the couple, with the entire incident recorded for posterity, but the next morning when she awoke, Jane remembered little of the previous evening’s events, and was allowed to leave.
The couple’s thirst for these brutal sexual assaults was just getting started, and on June 15, 1991, Bernardo ran into a teenage girl named Leslie Mahaffy while he was out stealing license plates from cars (part of a cigarette smuggling scam he was planning), and after making small talk, he enticed her back to his car where he forced her inside and kidnapped her. Leslie was repeatedly raped by the couple over a period of days before finally being murdered. During the trial, Homolka claimed that Bernardo had strangled the girl with electrical cord, and he claimed that the murder took place while he was out of the room. Either way, they decided to cut up the body, encase it in cement, and dump it in a nearby lake. As if these events weren’t chilling and cold hearted enough, Homolka and Bernardo held an elaborate wedding less than two weeks after the disposal of the body.
A year later, while the couple was out driving, they spotted a girl in a church parking lot that they both thought was an excellent candidate for another of their sexual trysts. Karla spoke to the girl, Kristen French, pretending to be lost, before Bernardo came up from behind and forced her into the car at knifepoint. She too was raped and eventually murdered, with the cause of death once more a contentious issue between the couple at trial. The abduction took place in front of several witnesses, and although none of them realized what was happening, when French was reported missing by her parents, many of them came forward and reported to police what they had seen.
Paul Bernardo had a history of sexual misbehavior before meeting Homolka, and had been accused of stalking girls, as well as being a suspect in the case of the Scarborough rapist, where police never really believed he was the man they were after. That all changed when John Motile, an acquaintance of Bernardo’s came forward and reported that he believed Bernardo was a murderer. During questioning of Bernardo, police obtained a swab of his saliva and later found that it matched the DNA they had on the Scarborough rapist.
By this point the marriage was over, with Homolka moving out after several savage beatings at the hands of Bernardo, but she also realized that with the net closing in on her husband, it was only a matter of time before she was implicated in the deaths of her sister Tammy, Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. She first revealed to her aunt and uncle that Bernardo was indeed the Scarborough rapist, before going to please and asking for a plea bargain in exchange for her testimony against Paul. In May of 1993, the Canadian government offered Homolka a 12 year sentence in exchange for testimony, a take it or leave it deal that had an expiration date of one week. She accepted, and quickly spilled her version of events to the authorities.
On the basis of her testimony, Bernardo was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole, and she was eventually released in July of 2005 and is reportedly living in the Antilles with husband Thierry Bordelais and their child. Her release caused outrage with the Canadian public when news filtered out that the video tapes of the sexual assaults showed her to be a more than willing participant, with many actually believing that it was she, and not Bernardo, who orchestrated most of the depravity. Whatever the case, she definitely falls under the category of Evil Lady.