ABBOTSFORD — Kelly Ellard has told the Parole Board of Canada she was not present when a woman was assaulted in a park in New Westminster in February 2004.
Parole board member Alex Dantzer asked Ellard about her role in the incident during a hearing Monday to assess whether she should be granted escorted temporary absences to take her baby to medical appointments and parenting classes.
The baby lives with Ellard in prison at the Fraser Valley Institution where Ellard is serving a life sentence for the November 1997 murder of 14-year-old Reena Virk.
During the hearing, a two-member panel considered Ellard’s risk of reoffending, her behaviour in prison, and whether the absences are desirable and will contribute to her reintegration into society. They concluded her risk was manageable and it was desirable for Ellard to move forward in her life.
Ellard was granted four escorted temporary absences per month, for up to four hours each, for the next three months.
During the hearing, Dantzer asked Ellard about her history of violence in prison and when she was briefly on bail in 2004 during an appeal of her conviction.
Ellard told Dantzer the charge of assault causing bodily harm to 58-year-old May Klaiber was dropped for a reason. Facing the two board members, with her back to members of the media, Ellard spoke quickly and quietly about the events of that day in the park.
Ellard said she had gone to the park to meet Danica Callaghan, a pregnant friend who was drinking and needed her help. Ellard gave her phone to Callaghan and walked away. When she came back, Callaghan was sitting with Klaiber. Ellard’s phone was missing. Callaghan started blaming Klaiber and getting aggressive. Ellard went to the washroom. When she came out, both her friend and the woman had gone.
“I was not there when the actual assault took place.”
Court documents support Ellard’s version of the incident. Klaiber was called by the Crown to testify at Ellard’s sentencing hearing for parole eligibility after being convicted of second-degree murder in July 2005. The Crown was trying to shed light on Ellard’s history of violence.
Klaiber testified that while she was being beaten, she didn’t see Ellard. Callaghan had already pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm.
A few weeks later, the Crown stayed the charge, saying it no longer had a substantial likelihood of conviction.
The board member said he was concerned Ellard still minimizes her responsibility for Reena’s death.
“I guess it could be seen that way. I just recollect the best I can,” Ellard replied.
Ellard, now 34, told the hearing she was only 15 at the time.
She said she struggles with anxiety. A psychologist found she has suffered trauma from all the media attention.
Ellard said she wanted the absences from prison because she feels the need to integrate into the community gradually and to bond with her child.
She said she believes her greatest risk would be if someone approached her and her child with a camera.
Patrick Storey, spokesman for the Parole Board of Canada, Pacific Region, sat in on the hearing and said Ellard’s behaviour has improved over the past 20 months.
“What seems to have happened, her attitude to authority and abiding by rules has changed considerably. She’s no longer challenging the staff. She’s co-operating. She’s participating actively in her correctional plan.”
Ellard has been on a hundred medical escorted absences in the past, the parole board heard.
“There was a change in the law a few years ago that shifted the authority for granting escorted temporary absences from the warden of the institution back to the Parole Board of Canada,” Storey explained.
Ellard is eligible to reapply for day parole in May.