SASKATOON — Family members of a woman brutally murdered in Saskatoon more than 20 years ago say they are devastated the man convicted in her death has received day parole against their wishes and the advice of Correctional Service Canada.
Kenneth David MacKay was found guilty of first-degree murder for the killing of 21-year-old Crystal Paskemin in 2000. He received a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
"As a family, we bear the burden of having to remember her beauty for longer than we got to enjoy her beauty," the family said in a prepared statement.
"We bear the burden of retraumatization every time the Parole Board of Canada sends letters of his activities, for the past 23 years."
The Parole Board of Canada decision from January said MacKay, 49, has been granted day parole for six months at a community residential facility on Vancouver Island. He must return to the facility every night, cannot consume alcohol or go to bars, and must report all sexual and non-sexual relationships with women.
He cannot go to Saskatchewan without permission or contact the victim's family.
The board's decision noted MacKay's case management team in prison was not supportive of day parole because he was a high risk for violent reoffending and required a more gradual release plan. The document said "there continue to be concerns regarding power and control issues and possible issues with women.”
GRAPHIC WARNING: The following details may disturb some readers.
During his trial, court heard that MacKay met Paskemin at a country bar in Saskatoon. He offered the young Indigenous woman a ride home, but instead brought her to an isolated road on the outskirts of the city.
Parole documents said he sexually assaulted Paskemin violently in his truck. When she managed to escape, he hit her on the jaw with such force that the bone broke and a tooth was knocked out.
He drove his truck over her head before using a chain to drag her naked remains into a ditch. Her body was also lit on fire.
MacKay was arrested less than a week later after a driver reported blood on the road. Paskemin's DNA was found throughout MacKay's vehicle, on his belt buckle and on the chain.
It took weeks for her body to be discovered by motorists driving by the area.
MacKay said at trial that the killing was an accident and denied any sexual component to killing Paskemin. Parole documents showed that MacKay only recently admitted culpability.
The board said MacKay had a "flat affect" throughout the hearing and "appeared to show no emotion" while talking about the killing and harms he caused.
"There remain concerns that you have minimized your actions against the victim," the parole board's decision said.
The board noted he has received three institutional charges while incarcerated, twice for possession of unauthorized items and once for delaying a prisoner count.
It also noted that MacKay sent a letter to a staff member that appeared to cross boundaries. He also asked a family member to contact that staff member so he could keep in touch.
However, the parole board ultimately found MacKay "will not present an undue risk to society if released on day parole" and the move would help him reintegrate into society.
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Vice Chief Heather Bear said there should be measures to ensure Indigenous voices are heard by the parole system, especially when violence is directed at women and girls.
"Sentences don’t seem to be a deterrent," Bear said in a news release from the federation, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan.
"The lack of compassion and rehabilitation in this crime shows the perpetrator deserves the maximum time behind bars."
Paskemin was from Sweetgrass First Nation and her family said she had a contagious smile and magnetic character. They started Crystal's Gift, a non-profit that rehomes gently used furniture to single mothers fleeing violence, in her name.
She had four younger sisters, all under 19 when she was killed. Paskemin’s family said they received the life sentence when her life was stolen.
"We pray that no family must go through the hell-on-earth that we have had to navigate, through the darkest depths of evil, at the hands of this murderer," they said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2023.
Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press