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Mountie killer denied parole 25 years after highway execution

Posted: Apr. 25, 2012

It was just after midnight on January 16, 1987. On a highway just outside Calgary an RCMP officer was found sprawled on the road, shot to death.

"It's very tragic and very unnecessary," said RCMP Insp. Keith Thompson about the murder 25 years ago.

Special Const. Gordon Kowalczyk was shot six times, once at close range in the face, while he lay dying on Highway 2A near Crossfield, Alta.

Kowalczyk had been investigating the theft of $20 worth of gas when he pulled over a stolen 1984 Ford pickup truck.

There were no witnesses to the shooting, so it's unclear exactly what happened. However, it's believed Kowalczyk was first shot as he approached the driver.

The 35-year-old officer fired back, emptying his service revolver. There were a number of bullet holes in the side of the truck and it's believed one of the windows was shot out.

Three workers on their way home from the Calgary airport made the grisly discovery soon after. They found Kowalczyk's body on the middle of the highway and used the radio in the fallen officer’s police cruiser to report the murder.

Arrests shock city

A month after the killing, police made an arrest at a farmhouse near Crossfield — a mother and her 21-year-old son were charged with first-degree murder.

Linda Bowen and Andrew Kay were later found to be responsible for several armed robberies across the province.

The pair had also been sharing a bedroom in the farmhouse and were involved in an incestuous relationship.

During their trial in November 1988, Bowen pleaded guilty to manslaughter and four armed robberies and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Kay was later found guilty of first-degree murder and given an automatic life sentence for killing a police officer with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.

His lawyer argued the sentence and conviction were unconstitutional because the sentence didn't take into account the shooting was not planned. The Alberta Court of Appeal upheld the sentence, while the Supreme Court of Canada denied Kay's application for leave to appeal.

Kay denied full parole

Thursday’s parole hearing was the first time Kay, now in his late 40s, has ever asked for any type of release from prison.

The parole board said, "Kay showed little or no insight into what was a very violent crime. He's not been working with his case management team. He says he has no plan for his release and admitted he isn't ready." Kay can apply again in six months.

He's currently incarcerated at Matsqui Institution, a medium-security prison in Abbottsford, B.C.

He became eligible to apply for either escorted or unescorted leave from the prison a few years ago, but never applied.

Shortly after the conviction in November 1988, Kowalczyk's mother Hilda told CBC News, "There's no justice, sure he got life sentence, but after 25 years, he will come out, he will be free. Gordie cannot rise from underneath and live again."

Hilda died six years ago. Kowalczyk had three children with his first wife, all of whom live in the Calgary area. They don't want to see their father's killer freed.

Family speaks about parole hearing

"When someone is murdered, they don't come back to life in 25 years. For that guy to be allowed a chance at freedom after killing someone innocent in that horrific manner is a travesty of our justice system," said Blaine Kowalczyk, the murdered officer's son.

"My dad didn't get to live a day past Jan. 26, 1987, why should Andrew Kay get a normal life to live after Jan. 26, 1987? He made his choices," said Kerri Schell, Kowalzyk's daughter.

Insp. Thompson said he also didn't think the parole board should have considered Kay's application.

"Absolutely not, he took a young man down in the prime of his life. That wife is deprived of her husband, the kids are deprived of their father and I don't think he deserves any consideration at all, he should stay where he is and should be forgotten about."

CBC News also caught up with Kay’s former lawyer Noel O'Brien.

The defence lawyer holds a much different view than Thompson.

"From a logical stand point I don't know why anyone, how anyone, could disagree with the fact that he has already paid that extra price in terms of punishment because the victim was a police officer,” said O'Brien.

However, Carley Kowalczyk, the eldest, said she was deeply troubled no one from the Parole Board of Canada notified the family that a parole hearing had been scheduled for Kay.

Kowalczyk, who was 11 at the time of her father’s murder, said her siblings were trying to put together a victim impact statement to make sure Kay and the parole board hear how the crime affected their lives.

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