(File photo)

(File photo)

Vernon man’s escorted-leave ‘beyond disappointing’: victim’s mother

Shane Ertmoed was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2000 death of 10-year-old Heather Thomas

The mother of a Surrey 10-year-old who was abducted and killed in October 2000 says she is “beyond disappointed” that her daughter’s killer has been granted escorted leaves from custody.

Jody Aspin said the decision regarding Shane Ertmoed was made Tuesday (May 4), following a virtual parole board hearing.

“Clearly, watching him today, all he was concerned about was what he could get for himself. He showed no remorse. Not an ounce,” Aspin said.

Ertmoed, of Vernon, is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder in connection with Heather’s death. The youngster was playing outside with some children during a stay at her father’s townhouse complex in Cloverdale when a neighbour convinced her to go inside his apartment.

When Ertmoed tried to sexually assault Heather, she struggled and he killed her. Her body was found weeks later in Alouette Lake.

Ertmoed was found guilty in 2002, and handed a life sentence with no chance of parole until 2027.

Aspin said Tuesday that following Ertmoed’s conviction, no one told her that he could be applying for day parole on a regular basis – “which he did, the entire time,” she said.

(Parole Board of Canada officials clarified that offenders may apply for Escorted Temporary Absences at any time in their sentence. Ertmoed is not eligible for day parole, however, until Nov. 3, 2022, followed by full parole eligibility as of Nov. 3, 2025. His sentence does not expire.)

“So at no point has myself or my family been able to even try and start to heal, because he feels that he should be allowed outside jail.”

In a statement read during the hearing and shared that afternoon with Peace Arch News, Aspin told the board that Ertmoed, now 43, “not only took my daughter’s life, he took mine.”

She said Ertmoed’s rights died with her daughter and appealed to the board to stop allowing him to continue victimizing her and her family.

“I wake up and go to work and that’s all I can do,” Aspin told Peace Arch News. “I think about her from the moment I wake up till the moment I go to bed.”

According to Rebecca Darnell, a Langley lawyer who attended Tuesday’s hearing to support Aspin – with whom she developed a friendship through the ordeal of Heather’s disappearance and murder – Ertmoed asked for escorted leaves from William Head Institution in Victoria “for the purpose of assisting his rehabilitation and reintegration into the community.”

“He wants to work at non-profits,” Darnell said. “I was not aware that that was part of the plan and, in fact, the victims were not aware of the plan.”

Darnell said other information disclosed during the hearing that concerned her included that Ertmoed did not participate in any programs during the first decade of his incarceration, and that he hadn’t considered medication to reduce his sex drive and manage his risk level because he is still young enough to have a family.

About about being a murderer, Ertmoed told the board “he was not proud of what happened to Heather,” Darnell said.

Darnell said she was not convinced that Ertmoed was sincere.

“I get that we don’t lock people up, we don’t throw away the key, we don’t hang them,” she said. “This guy, when I heard him, I just could not detect any credible empathy from him. He was controlled and he was deliberate. He shared as much as he was forced to share.”

Heather’s childhood best friend also gave a statement to the board, sharing the lasting impact that her friend’s death had on her own life, and her concerns for the community’s safety should Ertmoed be allowed out.

Katherine Charette told PAN she found the board’s decision to grant Ertmoed’s application “really shocking,” and said Ertmoed’s expressions of regret don’t hold up.

“I feel if he was truly sorry… he wouldn’t ask for this,” she said. “He would sit and do his time till the day he died.”

Darnell said Ertmoed’s escorted leaves are to take effect after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, and be in effect from Monday to Friday, for no more than eight hours per day, for a period of one year.

Parole board officials said such escorted leaves are approved/authorized when it is considered that the offender “will not present an undue risk during the absence.”



tholmes@peacearchnews.com
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