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VandenElsen sent back to prison; McDonald’s restaurant killer gets passes


Hi All:
Here is an article that Rick Howe wrote in the Daily News:

COLUMNS Columns RSS Feed
Last updated at 8:27 AM on 02/03/07

Parole board’s priorities puzzling print this article
VandenElsen sent back to prison;
McDonald’s restaurant killer gets passes

Carline VandenElsen is shown in one of her many court appearances over her 2004 standoff. (File photo)
Rick Howe
RICK HOWE Rick Howe RSS Feed
The Daily News

As the National Parole Board prepares to let back into the
community a man involved in one of Nova Scotia’s most notorious
crimes, it has slammed the door shut again on a petite woman
whose only crime was to try to hang on to her young baby –
and hopes to be a mother to her daughter again some day.

Carline VandenElsen not only had her temporary pass from
prison yanked this week, but the parole board threw her back
into prison, saying she hasn’t yet learned her lesson.

Variety of charges

VandenElsen had been sentenced to three years on a variety
of charges including child abduction, assault with a weapon
and obstructing police after a three-day standoff on Shirley
Street in Halifax in May 2004. The confrontation with heavily
armed police began with a midnight knock on her apartment
door to serve a child-protection order. It ended some 67 hours
later with VandenElsen and her husband, Larry Finck, under arrest,
Finck’s mother dead from natural causes and the couple’s infant
daughter taken by the Children’s Aid Society.

VandenElsen had been released on a temporary pass about a month
ago and was doing volunteer work at a Halifax church. She’s kept
herself out of trouble and kept her mouth shut – reining in a weakness
that compounded some of her earlier problems with the legal system.

But despite a positive recommendation for parole from Corrections
Canada officials, the board said no this week and ordered her return
to the Nova Scotia Institute for Women in Truro to serve out the
remainder of her sentence – which expires later this year.

Connie Brauer of Falmouth has long been a supporter of VandenElsen
and her fight to keep her baby daughter. She was prepared to take
VandenElsen into her home to live if she’d been granted parole.
But apparently the arrangement was one of the board’s issues.

Brauer has also been a vocal critic of the justice system, and a board
member says they were troubled with the mix. Pat O’Brien said
in the board’s oral decision: “It doesn’t make sense. The risk is not manageable.”

Brauer is outraged and calls the parole board’s decision “barbaric, medieval and cruel.”

Brauer says corrections officials visited her home three times, and
there was never a problem.

“The gave us a good report,” she told me this week.

Brauer says the parole board has it out for VandenElsen because
she won’t admit any guilt and wants her baby back.

“She’s being punished for two or three years for what? What’s she
supposed to say? ‘I’m sorry you took my child?’ She’s an innocent
person. They took her child for no reason. The fix was in. There
was no way they were going to give her parole.”

It is truly difficult to imagine how VandenElsen could be considered
any kind of a risk, to herself or to society. Is she odd? Yes. But since
when did eccentricity become a crime?

Out-spoken and angry at her run-ins with Children’s Aid and the
legal system? Without a doubt. Are we not, however, guaranteed freedom of opinion?

But a risk? Certainly not. She has already served more than two years.
This woman should not spend another minute in prison.

The National Parole Board’s stand is all the more puzzling,
considering its decision to give Darren Muise 16 temporary
passes from prison – where he’s been serving a life sentence
with no parole for 20 years for his second-degree murder
conviction. Muise was one of three young men involved in
the triple murders of late night employees at a McDonald’s
restaurant in Sydney in May 1992.

Shocking crime

Muise, 18 at the time, slit the throat of employee Neil Burroughs.
It was a crime that shocked Nova Scotians, who naively believed
such violence could never happen here.

Under escort, Muise will be permitted to visit a girlfriend and
attend some family functions. He has another six years to serve
before he’s eligible for full parole.

Burroughs’s sister Cathy says her family’s very upset with the decision.

“He has not shown any remorse,” she told CTV News anchor
Steve Murphy Wednesday night.

She says Muise has duped the board into believing he’s changed.
“He’s a good actor.”

A mother’s efforts to one day be reunited with the child she bore
keep her in jail, while a man who, in cold blood, ended the life of a
young father earns some freedom.

Is it just me, or is something not right here?

rhowe@chumhalifax.com

Rick Howe is the host of the radio talk show Hotline,
weekdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on AM 920 CJCH, and
on the Internet at cjch.ca.


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Board denies VandenElsen parole again


10:20 AM 2/28/2007

Board denies VandenElsen parole again
Woman convicted in standoff improving but still deemed a risk
By MARY ELLEN MacINTYRE Truro Bureau

TRURO — Carline VandenElsen has done so well in prison she’s on early release at a Halifax halfway house but she hasn’t done well enough to get full parole.

“The risk is not manageable — application denied,” Pat O’Brien of the National Parole Board said during a hearing at Nova Institution for Women on Tuesday.

Ms. VandenElsen has been a prisoner at the institution since her conviction in June 2005 on charges from a highly publicized three-day standoff with Halifax police in 2004.

The standoff began when police officers attempted to carry out a child apprehension order for her five-month-old daughter. Ms. VandenElsen’s husband, Larry Finck, was also sentenced to prison for his part in what has been called a bizarre and tragic situation.

After holding police at bay for three days, the couple left the home carrying Mr. Finck’s dead mother on an improvised stretcher, a shotgun and the baby.

Ms. VandenElsen was convicted of careless use of a shotgun, using a shotgun while committing an indictable offence and threatening to use a shotgun in committing an assault on police.

They were both convicted of abducting the baby in contravention of a child custody order, obstructing a police officer, possessing an unregistered shotgun and possessing a shotgun dangerous to the public peace.

Mr. Finck is being held at the Atlantic Institution in Renous, N.B., and is scheduled for release in March.

Ms. VandenElsen struggled to hold back tears when she heard the news Tuesday morning.

Corrections staff had recommended the 43-year-old gain full parole.

“She never picked up one charge here and never gave us any indication she was a risk,” said her caseworker, Rod MacDonald.

“But she does have a difficult time trusting authority figures.”

The caseworker said Ms. VandenElsen seemed to have a lot of sympathetic supporters and she planned to eventually live in the Annapolis Valley with a couple who have taken up her cause.

For the past month, she has been on what’s called a 60-day unescorted temporary absence, living at a halfway house in Halifax and volunteering at local churches. When she walked into the institution Tuesday morning, inmates hollered out to her, offering her good luck on her application.

Ms. VandenElsen was composed, well-spoken and agreeable during the hearing.

However, when a member of the board asked what she would do differently if she could go back to the time of the standoff, Ms. VandenElsen was unable to single out any one thing.

“It was the most harrowing, horrifying and traumatic experience in my life,” she said of the event.

“Had I known this would transpire, I wouldn’t have had a baby,” she said.

Mr. O’Brien told Ms. VandenElsen she is one of a kind.

“I’ve never seen a standoff with such drama — you’re unique,” he said.

“I know what happens to children in foster care — I didn’t want a child of mine in foster care,” she responded.

“I had a baby. I wanted to keep it and it was just a miserable, tragic situation all around,” she said.

Asked what she wanted to do in the future, Ms. VandenElsen said she wanted to get on with her life.

“Just collect all these little bits and pieces of my life — I would like to reunite with my family — it’s a very primal feeling.”

In delivering the board’s decision, Mr. O’Brien said members were not convinced Ms. VandenElsen understands what she did wrong.

“We never got the sense that at a fundamental level you think you ever did anything wrong.”

( mmacintyre@herald.ca)