British Columbia

Family 'devastated' as convicted killer of B.C. toddler released on bail

Decades after Philip Tallio, the convicted killer of B.C. toddler Delavina Mack, was imprisoned, a judge has granted him bail, albeit with numerous conditions.

Phillip Tallio is appealing his conviction after pleading guilty more than 30 years ago

Rhoda Desjarlais and Stella Bolton have spent years dealing with the devastation of losing toddler Delavina Mack in 1983. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Family members of toddler Delavina Mack stared ahead in a Vancouver courtroom, as they heard a judge give her reasons for releasing convicted killer Phillip Tallio on bail.

Judge Elizabeth Bennett said she was confident the supportive housing society assigned to keep watch on Tallio in Abbotsford, B.C., would provide sufficient supervision. 

Tallio has spent decades behind bars for killing the 22-month-old toddler, who suffocated during a sexual assault at a party in Bella Coola, B.C., in 1983. 

Now, he is appealing the conviction. 

Rhoda Desjarlais holds a picture of her cousin, Delavina Mack, who was 22 months old when she died in 1983. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Sarah Rauch, a lawyer representing Mack's family, said the family was devastated by the news of his release.

"Every step is very difficult for the family, and they're very concerned [for the safety of other children]. 

As part of Tallio's bail conditions, he won't be allowed near daycares or playgrounds and will need to attend counselling. 

He also can't be in the presence of anyone under 16, unless in the company of an adult. 

Phillip James Tallio was 17 when he was convicted of second degree murder. Decades later, his lawyers are appealing his sentence and say DNA evidence must be retested. (Submitted by Rachel Barsky)

Tallio has long maintained his innocence during his time in prison. 

His lawyers have argued new testing of DNA samples could show he was wrongfully convicted of the child's murder. 

The University of B.C.'s Innocence Project has been working on Tallio's case for several years. Lawyer Rachel Barsky, who now represents Tallio with the assistance of  the Legal Services Society, said her client is ecstatic over news of his release. 

"He literally could not speak for quite a few minutes and he was just crying over the phone," Barsky said. 

The appeal is expected to be heard later this year.

With files by CBC's Yvette Brend