Paul Kenneth Bernardo
August 27, 1964
(m. 1991; div. 1994)
|Conviction(s)||Murder, sexual assault, torture|
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment with a possibility of parole after 25 years; declared a dangerous offender in 1995|
|Victims||3–4 killed; more than 13 rapes, at least 6 attempted|
Span of crimes
|March 1986–April 19, 1992|
|February 17, 1993|
Paul Kenneth Bernardo (born August 27, 1964), also known as Paul Jason Teale, is a Canadian serial killer and serial rapist. He is known for initially committing a series of rapes in Scarborough, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto, between 1987 and 1990. He subsequently committed three murders with his then-wife Karla Homolka; among these victims was her young sister Tammy Homolka. After his capture and conviction, Bernardo was sentenced to life imprisonment and was later declared a dangerous offender, thus making it unlikely that he will ever be released from prison.
Paul Bernardo's father, Kenneth, fondled a girl and was charged with child molestation in 1975, and he also sexually abused his daughter. Bernardo's mother, depressed about her husband's abuse, withdrew from family life and lived in the basement of their home in Scarborough, in eastern Metropolitan Toronto.
In his book Lethal Marriage, Nick Pron describes the young Bernardo: "He was always happy. A young boy who smiled a lot. And he was so cute; with his dimpled good looks and sweet smile, that many of the mothers just wanted to pinch him on the cheek whenever they saw him. He was the perfect child they all wanted; polite, well mannered, doing well in school, so sweet in his Boy Scout uniform." Beneath the charming facade, however, Bernardo had developed dark sexual fantasies and enjoyed humiliating women in public and beating women he dated. When Bernardo was 16, his mother told him that he was conceived illegitimately during an extramarital affair. Disgusted, he began openly insulting her.
Bernardo attended Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate Institute in Scarborough, and then went to University of Toronto Scarborough in 1982, and worked for Amway, whose sales culture deeply affected him: "He bought the books and tapes of famous motivational get-rich-and-famous experts." Bernardo and his friends practised pickup techniques on young women they met in bars, and were fairly successful. In October 1987, he met Karla Homolka, and they were sexually attracted to each other almost immediately. Unlike the other women he knew, she encouraged his sadistic sexual behaviour. Bernardo was keenly interested in the 1991 Bret Easton Ellis novel, American Psycho, and "read it as his Bible".
Bernardo committed multiple sexual assaults, escalating in viciousness, in and around Scarborough. He attacked most of his victims after stalking them as they got off buses late in the evening.
Known incidents are:
From May to September 1990, police submitted more than 130 suspects' samples for DNA testing.
Police received two tips that the person they were seeking was Bernardo. The first, in June, had been filed by a bank employee. The second was from Tina Smirnis, wife of one of the three Smirnis brothers who were among Bernardo's closest friends. Smirnis told detectives that Bernardo "had been 'called in' on a previous rape investigation – once in December, 1987 – but he had never been interviewed". He frequently talked about his sex life to Smirnis and said that he liked rough sex.
Police interviewed Bernardo on November 20, 1990, for 35 minutes. Bernardo voluntarily provided samples for forensic testing. When the detectives asked Bernardo why he thought he was being investigated for the rapes, he admitted that he resembled the composite. Reportedly, detectives found Bernardo more credible than Smirnis.
By 1990, Bernardo was spending long periods of time with Homolka's family, who liked him. Although he was engaged to Karla, he flirted with her younger sister Tammy. Bernardo had not told them that he had lost his job as an accountant and was smuggling cigarettes across the nearby Canada–United States border. He had become obsessed with Tammy, peering into her window and entering her room to masturbate while she slept. Karla Homolka helped Bernardo by breaking the windows in her sisters' room, allowing him access. In July, he took Tammy across the border to get beer for a party; Bernardo later told his fiancée that "they got drunk and began making out".
According to Bernardo's testimony at his trial, Karla Homolka laced spaghetti sauce with crushed valium she had stolen from her employer at Martindale Animal Clinic. She served it to her sister, who soon lost consciousness. Bernardo then raped Tammy while Karla watched. Tammy woke up after one minute. Over the summer, he supplied Tammy and her friends with gifts, food and soft drinks with "a film and a few white flecks on the top".
Six months before their 1991 wedding, Karla Homolka stole the anesthetic agent halothane from the clinic. On December 23, 1990, Karla and Bernardo administered sleeping pills to the 15-year-old in a rum-and-eggnog cocktail. When Tammy lost consciousness, Karla and Bernardo undressed her and Karla applied a Halothane-soaked cloth to her sister's nose and mouth. Karla wanted to "give Tammy's virginity to Bernardo for Christmas"; according to her, Bernardo was disappointed that he was not Karla's first sex partner. With Tammy's parents sleeping upstairs, they videotaped themselves raping her in the basement. Tammy began to vomit; they tried to revive her and called 911 after hiding evidence, dressing Tammy and moving her into her bedroom. A few hours later, Tammy was pronounced dead at St. Catharines General Hospital without regaining consciousness.
Despite their behavior (vacuuming and washing laundry in the middle of the night) and despite a chemical burn on Tammy's face, the Regional Municipality of Niagara coroner and the Homolka family accepted Bernardo and Homolka's version of events. The official cause of Tammy Homolka's death was accidental: choking on vomit after consumption of alcohol. Bernardo and Karla subsequently videotaped themselves, with Karla wearing Tammy's clothing and pretending to be her. They moved out of the Homolka house to a rented Port Dalhousie bungalow to allow Homolka's parents to grieve.
On June 7, 1991, Homolka invited a 15-year-old girl she had befriended at a pet shop two years earlier, known as "Jane Doe" in the trials, for a "girls' night out." After an evening of shopping and dining, Homolka plied "Jane Doe" with alcohol laced with Halcion. When the girl lost consciousness, Homolka called Bernardo to tell him that his surprise wedding gift was ready. Bernardo videotaped Homolka raping the girl before he himself sexually assaulted her. The next morning, "Jane Doe" was nauseated but thought that her vomiting was from drinking alcohol for the first time, and did not realize that she had been sexually assaulted.
In August, "Jane Doe" was invited back to Port Dalhousie to "spend the night" and was again drugged. Homolka called 911 for help after the girl stopped breathing while being raped. Homolka called back a few minutes later to say that "everything is all right" and the ambulance was recalled without follow-up. "Jane Doe" survived.
Early in the morning on June 15, 1991, Bernardo detoured through Burlington (halfway between Toronto and St. Catharines) to steal licence plates and found Leslie Mahaffy. The 14-year-old had missed her curfew after attending a friend's wake and was locked out of her house. Bernardo left his car and approached Mahaffy, saying that he wanted to break into a neighbour's house. Unfazed, she asked if he had any cigarettes. When Bernardo led her to his car he blindfolded her, forced her into the car, drove her to Port Dalhousie and informed Homolka that they had a victim.
Bernardo and Homolka videotaped themselves torturing and sexually abusing Mahaffy while they listened to Bob Marley and David Bowie. At one point Bernardo said, "You're doing a good job, Leslie, a damned good job", adding: "The next two hours are going to determine what I do to you. Right now, you're scoring perfect." On another segment of tape played at Bernardo's trial, the assault escalated. Mahaffy cried out in pain, and begged Bernardo to stop. In the Crown description of the scene, he was sodomizing her while her hands were bound with twine.
Mahaffy later told Bernardo that her blindfold seemed to be slipping, which signaled the possibility that she could identify her attackers if she lived. The following day, Bernardo claimed, Homolka fed her a lethal dose of Halcion; Homolka claimed that Bernardo strangled her. They put Mahaffy's body in their basement, and the day after that the Homolka family had dinner at the house. After the Homolkas and their remaining daughter Lori left, Bernardo and Homolka decided that the best way to dispose of the evidence would be to dismember Mahaffy and encase each part of her remains in cement. Bernardo bought a dozen bags of cement at a hardware store the following day; he kept the receipts, which were damaging at his trial. Bernardo used his grandfather's circular saw to dismember Mahaffy. Bernardo and Homolka made a number of trips to dump the cement blocks in Lake Gibson, 18 kilometres (11 mi) south of Port Dalhousie. At least one of the blocks weighed 90 kg (200 pounds) and was beyond their ability to sink. It lay near the shore, where it was found by Michael Doucette and his son Michael Jr while on a fishing expedition on June 29, 1991. Mahaffy's orthodontic appliance was instrumental in identifying her.
Homolka was released from prison on July 4, 2005. Several days before, Bernardo was interviewed by police and his lawyer Tony Bryant. According to Bryant, Bernardo said that he had always intended to free the girls he and Homolka kidnapped. However, when Mahaffy's blindfold fell off (allowing her to see Bernardo's face) Homolka was concerned that Mahaffy would identify Bernardo and report them to the police. Bernardo claimed that Homolka planned to murder Mahaffy by injecting an air bubble into her bloodstream, triggering an air embolism.
During the after-school hours of April 16, 1992 (Maundy Thursday), Bernardo and Homolka drove through St. Catharines to look for potential victims. Although students were still going home, the streets were generally empty. As they passed Holy Cross Secondary School, a Catholic high school in the city's north end, they spotted 15-year-old Kristen French walking briskly to her nearby home. They pulled into the parking lot of nearby Grace Lutheran Church and Homolka got out of the car, map in hand, pretending to need assistance. When French looked at the map Bernardo attacked from behind, brandishing a knife and forcing her into the front seat of their car. From the back seat, Homolka subdued French by pulling her hair.
French took the same route home every day, taking about 15 minutes to get home and care for her dog. Soon after she should have arrived, her parents became convinced that she met with foul play and notified police. Within 24 hours the Niagara Regional Police Service (NRP) assembled a team, searched French's route and found several witnesses who had seen the abduction from different locations (giving police a fairly-clear picture). French's shoe, recovered from the parking lot, underscored the seriousness of the abduction.
Over the Easter weekend Bernardo and Homolka videotaped themselves torturing, raping and sodomizing French, forcing her to drink large amounts of alcohol and submit to Bernardo. At his trial, Crown prosecutor Ray Houlahan said that Bernardo always intended to kill her because she was never blindfolded and could identify her captors. The following day, Bernardo and Homolka murdered French before going to the Homolkas' for Easter dinner. Homolka testified at her trial that Bernardo strangled French for seven minutes while she watched. Bernardo said that Homolka beat French with a rubber mallet because she tried to escape, and French was strangled with a noose around her neck which was secured to a hope chest; Homolka then went to fix her hair.
French's nude body was found on April 30, 1992, in a ditch in Burlington, about 45 minutes from St. Catharines and a short distance from the cemetery where Mahaffy is buried. She had been washed, and her hair was cut off. Although it was thought that French's hair was removed as a trophy, Homolka testified that it was cut to impede identification.
Shortly after Tammy Homolka's funeral her parents left town and Lori visited her grandparents in Mississauga, leaving the house empty. According to author Stephen Williams, during the weekend of January 12, 1991, Bernardo abducted a girl, took her to the house, raped her while Homolka watched and dropped her off on a deserted road near Lake Gibson. Bernardo and Homolka called her "January girl".
At about 5:30 a.m. on April 6, 1991, Bernardo abducted a 14-year-old who was warming up as coxswain for a local rowing team. The girl was distracted by a blonde woman who waved at her from her car, enabling Bernardo to drag her into the shrubbery near the rowing club. He sexually assaulted her and forced her to remove her clothes and wait five minutes (during which he disappeared).
Derek Finkle's 1997 book No Claim to Mercy presented evidence tying Bernardo to the murder of Elizabeth Bain, who disappeared on June 19, 1990 (three weeks after the last known attack of the Scarborough Rapist). Bain told her mother that she was going to "check the tennis schedule" at the University of Toronto Scarborough; three days later, her car was found with a large bloodstain on the back seat.
Robert Baltovich, who has consistently maintained his innocence, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend on March 31, 1992. At trial, his lawyers suggested that the then-unidentified Scarborough Rapist was responsible for the crime. Baltovich served eight years of a life sentence before he was released pending appeal. In September 2004 his appeal was processed, with his lawyers alleging that he had been wrongfully convicted and Bernardo was guilty of the murder. The Court of Appeal for Ontario set aside Baltovich's conviction on December 2, 2004, but on July 15, 2005, the Attorney General of Ontario announced that he would face a new trial. On April 22, 2008, after a series of pretrial motions (including the presentation of evidence implicating Bernardo in Bain's murder), Crown prosecutor Philip Kotanen told the court that he would call no evidence and asked the jury to find Baltovich not guilty of second-degree murder.
On March 29, 1992, Bernardo stalked and videotaped two sisters from his car and followed them to their parents' house; the sisters incorrectly recorded his licence-plate number. One sister reported the incident to the NRP on March 31, 1992, and received an incident number to report further information. With French under Homolka's guard on April 18, 1992, Bernardo went out to buy dinner and rent a movie. He was spotted by one of the sisters, who attempted to track him to his house. Although she lost him, she got a better description of his licence plate and car and reported them to police. Her information was mishandled by police, falling into the "black hole" to which Judge Archie Campbell referred in the Campbell Report of 1996 (an inquiry into police mishandling of evidence in the case).
In 2006, Bernardo confessed to at least 10 more sexual assaults dating to March 1986, including the 1987 assault of a 15-year-old girl. Another man, Anthony Hanemaayer, had been convicted of the assault and served a full sentence for it. On June 25, 2008, the Court of Appeal for Ontario overturned the conviction and exonerated Hanemaayer.
Homolka and Bernardo were questioned by police several times in connection with the Scarborough Rapist investigation, Tammy Homolka's death, and Bernardo's stalking of other women before the death of French. The officer[which?] filed a report, and on 12 May 1992 an NRP sergeant and constable briefly interviewed Bernardo. The officers decided that he was an unlikely suspect, although Bernardo admitted that he had been questioned in connection with the Scarborough rapes. Three days later, the Green Ribbon Task Force was created to investigate the murders of Mahaffy and French. Bernardo and Homolka had applied to have their names legally changed to Teale, which Bernardo had taken from the serial killer in the 1988 film Criminal Law. At the end of May, John Motile (an acquaintance of Smirnis and Bernardo) reported Bernardo as a possible murder suspect.
In December 1992, the Centre of Forensic Sciences finally began testing DNA samples provided by Bernardo two years earlier. On 27 December, he severely beat Homolka on the limbs, head and face with a flashlight. Claiming that she had been in an automobile accident, the severely-bruised Homolka returned to work on 4 January 1993. Her skeptical co-workers called her parents, and although they rescued her the following day by physically removing her from the house, Homolka went back in, frantically searching for something. Her parents took her to St. Catharines General Hospital, where she gave a statement to the NRP that she was a battered spouse and filed charges against Bernardo. He was arrested, and later released on his own recognizance. A friend who found Bernardo's suicide note intervened, and Homolka moved in with relatives in Brampton.
Twenty-six months after Bernardo submitted a DNA sample, Toronto police were informed that it matched that of the Scarborough Rapist and immediately placed him under 24-hour surveillance. Metro Toronto Sexual Assault Squad investigators interviewed Homolka on February 9, 1993. Despite hearing their suspicions about Bernardo, Homolka focused on his abuse of her. Later that night she told her aunt and uncle that Bernardo was the Scarborough Rapist, that she and Bernardo were involved in the rape and murder of Mahaffy and French and that the rapes were recorded on videotape. The NRP reopened its investigation of Tammy Homolka's death. Two days later Homolka met with Niagara Falls lawyer George Walker, who sought legal immunity from Houlahan[who?] in exchange for her cooperation. She was also placed under 24-hour surveillance.
The couple's name change was approved on February 13, 1993. The next day, Walker met with Crown Criminal Law Office director Murray Segal. After Walker told Segal about the videotapes of the rapes, Segal advised him that, due to Homolka's involvement in the crimes, full immunity was not a possibility.
On February 17, Metro Sexual Assault Squad and Green Ribbon Task Force detectives arrested Bernardo on several charges and obtained a search warrant. Because his link to the murders was weak, the warrant was limited; no evidence which was not expected and documented in the warrant could be removed from the premises, and all videotapes found by police had to be viewed in the house. Damage had to be kept to a minimum; police could not tear down walls looking for the videotapes. The search of the house (including updated warrants) lasted 71 days, and the only tape found by police had a brief segment of Homolka performing oral sex on "Jane Doe".
On May 5, Walker was informed that the government was offering Homolka a plea bargain of 12 years which she had one week to accept. If she declined, the government would charge her with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder and other crimes. Walker accepted the offer, and Homolka later agreed to it. On May 14 Homolka's plea bargain was finalized, and she began giving statements to police investigators. She told police that Bernardo boasted that he had raped as many as 30 women (twice as many as the police suspected), calling him "the happy rapist".
Citing the need to protect Bernardo's right to a fair trial, a publication ban was imposed on Homolka's preliminary inquiry. The Crown had applied for the ban, which was imposed on July 5 by Francis Kovacs of the Ontario Court of Justice (General Division). Homolka, through her lawyers, supported the ban; Bernardo's lawyers argued that he would be prejudged by the ban, since Homolka had been portrayed as his victim. Four media outlets and one author also opposed the ban. Some lawyers argued that rumours could damage the future trial process more than the publication of evidence. In February 1994, Homolka divorced Bernardo.
Public access to the Internet effectively nullified the court's order, as did proximity to the American border (since the ban was only in effect in Ontario). US journalists, not subject to the publication ban, published details of Homolka's testimony which were distributed by "electronic ban-breakers". Newspapers in Buffalo, Detroit, Washington, D.C., New York City and the United Kingdom, as well as radio and television stations along the Canadian-U.S. border, reported details gleaned from Homolka's trial. The syndicated series A Current Affair aired two programs on the crimes. Canadians brought copies of The Buffalo News across the border, prompting orders to the NRP to arrest all those with more than one copy at the border; extra copies were confiscated. Copies of other newspapers, including The New York Times, were turned back at the border or not accepted by distributors in Ontario. Gordon Domm, a retired police officer who defied the publication ban by distributing details from foreign media, was convicted of two counts of contempt of court.
Bernardo was tried for the murders of French and Mahaffy in 1995, and his trial included detailed testimony from Homolka and videotapes of the rapes. Bernardo testified that the deaths were accidental, later claiming that his wife was the actual killer. On September 1, 1995, Bernardo was convicted of a number of offences, including the two first-degree murders and two aggravated sexual assaults, and sentenced to life in prison without parole for at least 25 years. He was designated a dangerous offender, making him unlikely to ever be released.
In a plea bargain (a 12-year sentence for manslaughter), Homolka testified against Bernardo in his murder trial. The plea bargain was criticized by many Canadians, since Bernardo's first defence lawyer (Ken Murray) withheld videotapes for 17 months. They were considered crucial evidence, and prosecutors said that they would never have agreed to the plea bargain if they had seen the tapes. Murray was later acquitted of obstruction of justice and faced a disciplinary hearing by the Law Society of Upper Canada.
Although Bernardo was kept in the segregation unit at Kingston Penitentiary for his own safety, he was attacked and harassed; he was punched in the face by another inmate when he returned from a shower in 1996. In June 1999, five convicts tried to storm his segregation range and a riot squad used gas to disperse them.
The Toronto Star reported on February 21, 2006, that Bernardo admitted sexually assaulting at least 10 other women in attacks not previously attributed to him. Most were in 1986, a year before what police called the reign of terror by the Scarborough Rapist. Authorities suspected Bernardo in other crimes, including a string of rapes in Amherst, New York, and the drowning of Terri Anderson in St. Catharines, but he has never acknowledged his involvement. Bernardo's lawyer, Anthony G. Bryant, reportedly forwarded the information to legal authorities in November 2005.
In 2006, Bernardo gave a prison interview suggesting that he had reformed and would make a good parole candidate. He became eligible to petition a jury to be allowed to apply for early parole in 2008 under the faint hope clause (since he committed multiple murders before the 1997 criminal-code amendment), but did not do so. In 2015, Bernardo became eligible (and applied) for day parole in Toronto. According to the victims' lawyer, Tim Danson, it is unlikely that Bernardo will ever be released from prison because of his dangerous offender status. In September 2013, he was moved from Kingston Penitentiary (which was closing) to Millhaven Institution in Bath, Ontario, where he is reportedly segregated from the other inmates.
Bernardo scored 35 out of 40 on the Psychopathy Checklist, a psychological assessment tool used to assess the presence of psychopathy in individuals. This is classified as clinical psychopathy. In November 2015, Bernardo self-published A MAD World Order, a violent, fictional, 631-page e-book on Amazon. By November 15, the book was reportedly an Amazon bestseller, but was removed from the website due to a public outcry.
In October 2018, Bernardo had been set to go to trial for possession of a "shank" weapon while incarcerated (a 5 cm long screw attached to a pen). However, the prosecution dropped the charges due to their determination that there was no reasonable probability of conviction.
Bernardo became eligible for parole in February 2018. On 17 October 2018, he was denied day and full parole by the Parole Board of Canada.
After Bernardo's 1995 conviction, the Ontario government appointed Archie Campbell to review the roles played by the police services during the investigation. In his 1996 report, Campbell found that lack of coordination, cooperation and communications by police and other elements of the judicial system contributed to a serial predator "falling through the cracks". One of Campbell's key recommendations was for an automated case-management system for Ontario's police services to use in investigations of homicides and sexual assaults. Ontario is the only place in the world with this type of computerized case-management network. Since 2002, all municipal police services and the Ontario Provincial Police have had access to PowerCase.
Episodes of Law & Order ("Fools for Love", season 10), Law & Order: Special Victims Unit ("Damaged", season 4), Close to Home ("Truly, Madly, Deeply", season 2) and The Inspector Lynley Mysteries (2007's "Know Thine Enemy") were inspired by the case. Under the Canadian publication ban in force at the time, "Fools for Love" could not be shown on Canadian television when it aired on February 23, 2000. The second episode of The Mentalist concerned a respectable, murderous husband-and-wife team. The Criminal Minds episode "Mr. and Mrs. Anderson" contains a serial-killer couple loosely based on Bernardo and Homolka, and the Bernardo case was mentioned by the Behavioral Analysis Unit team when they delivered their profile to the local police. Dark Heart, Iron Hand, an MSNBC documentary rebroadcast as "To Love and To Kill" on MSNBC Investigates, concerned the case. In 2004, producers from Quantum Entertainment (a Los Angeles-based production company) announced the release of Karla, with the working title Deadly. The 1993 Rush song "Nobody's Hero" references the murder of a young girl in Port Dalhousie, drummer Neil Peart's hometown.