Slain Mountie's partner opposes convicted woman's release
A woman convicted of manslaughter for her role in the 2001 killing of Const. Dennis Strongquill, should have to serve her full sentence instead of receiving mandatory release next month, says the slain Mountie's former partner.
Laurie Bell, 26, will be released from an Alberta prison in March after serving two-thirds of her seven-year sentence.
"Speaking as a victim, and not as a policeman, you know, she might as well just stay in custody until her time is up," said Cpl. Brian Auger, Strongquill's former partner, who now works in at the RCMP detachment in Cross Lake, Man.
He was not told of Bell's impending release, Auger said.
"Nobody's ever spoke to me," he said. "They should maybe talk to the people that were involved and get a better idea or understanding as to what the victim goes through."
No choice but release: parole board
Darren Caul, spokesman for the National Parole Board, said Bell's release after serving two-thirds of her sentence is automatic under current legislation — despite two assault convictions while in prison and reports of drug use and of violent behaviour as recently as December.
"The board has some concerns and, in fact, took the extraordinary measure in this case of imposing a number of special conditions, the top of which is a residency condition," he said.
Bell will be required to live in a halfway house, Caul said, explaining that the board can only ask for a residency requirement when they feel the person "presents an undue risk to the community and believes it's essential for that risk to be managed."
Although the law allows for the Corrections Service of Canada to detain a person beyond their statutory release date in cases where a violent offender presents a risk to the community, that option is not available to the National Parole Board, Caul said.
Placing Bell in a halfway house was the board's only option, he said.
"In this case, then, the board has a stat[utory] release case, and it can only impose special conditions to ensure … that her risk is manageable in the community. That is the only option available to the board, and it exercised that to the fullest."
Bell will also be required to abstain from alcohol and drugs, as well as meet other special conditions involving her parole officer, psychological counselling and intimate relationships, Caul said.
Bell had been on a 10-day crime spree across the Prairie provinces with two men, Danny and Robert Sand, when Strongquill and Auger attempted to pull them over for a routine traffic violation in western Manitoba.
After the officers stopped their stolen truck, Robert Sand opened fire with a sawed-off shotgun. The three then pursued the two police officers into town, ramming their vehicle just outside the RCMP detachment in Russell.
Auger was thrown from the vehicle, but Strongquill was trapped inside as Robert Sand pumped several shotgun blasts into it, the court was told at the pair's trial in 2003.
Bell — who witnesses said encouraged the shooting by shouting "kill him! kill him!" — was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but she was given three years' credit for the 18 months she spent in custody awaiting trial.
Robert Sand was convicted of first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence with no possibility of parole for 25 years. Danny Sand died in a police shooting during a stand-off at a rural Saskatchewan motel.
'I'll never forget him'
Auger recalled Strongquill, 52, as a proud family man. The 20-year veteran of the force has six children, including a new baby.
"There's probably not a day that doesn't go by that I don't think about Dennis. There's always reminders," he said.
"It's actually pretty hard [to discuss,]" he said, pausing to collect himself.
"He was somebody you want to be with, somebody who can do the talk and yet show a soft side of himself. I'll never forget him."
He no longer considers any traffic stop to be "routine," he said.
"I'll tell you right now, I never use the word 'routine' anymore," he said. "I'll probably never say that again."