Convicted hitman in Mill Woods murder seeks early parole

Keith Schell, 53 is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years for the contract killing of Adnan Pervez in 2000. Under the now-repealed faint hope clause, Schell is asking a jury to let him seek parole before the 25 year mandated time frame.

Keith Schell asks Edmonton jury for release in rare 'faint hope' hearing

The Mill Woods home where Adnan Pervez, 18, was gunned down in his own driveway in December, 2000, by hired hitman Keith Schell. (CBC)

Convicted murderer and hitman Keith Schell hopes an Edmonton jury will give him the chance to seek early parole. After 18 years in prison, he claims he's a changed man.

In 2002, Schell was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder for the Dec. 13, 2000 shooting of Adnan Pervez, 18.

The conviction carried an automatic life sentence with no chance to seek parole for 25 years.

Now Schell has been granted a hearing under the so-called 'faint hope clause' that gave convicted killers with a parole ineligibility period of more than 15 years the chance to apply for early parole after serving at least 15 years.

That section of the criminal code was repealed in December 2011 and only applies to crimes that were committed before that date.

This week, a jury made up of ten women and two men will hear from a probation officer and Schell's own family. The jury has also been told a psychologist will testify. Schell will also take the stand.

On the opening day of the hearing, defence lawyer Amanda Hart Dowhun told the jury, "I expect that you will be surprised at how much effort he has put into improving himself and being an asset to our society."

'I was a low-life, drug dealer, street junkie, criminal'

The jury has been given hundreds of pages to review that go into detail about Schell's time behind bars. Included in one of the reports is Schell's own version of events about the murder he committed in December 2000.

Schell, now 53, admits he had been a drug addict for 20 years, that his cocaine addiction had grown into a $1000 a day habit.

"I had no education, I had no social skills and all I thought about was getting cocaine," Schell wrote. "I was a low-life, piece of shit, drug dealer, street junkie, criminal that was doing nothing to help society."

Schell fed his habit when he lived in Vancouver by selling drugs. When he moved to Edmonton in 2000, he had no way to support his addiction.

After three months, he was in debt to his dealer. Edward So asked him to kill a man to settle a drug turf war. So offered to erase his drug debt, give him $2000 and an ounce of cocaine if he carried out the hit.

By the day of the shooting, Schell admits he had been doing cocaine for 10 days straight when So picked him up to drive him to the target's house in Mill Woods.

"I was still smoking crack when we pulled up and Eddy pointed at the guy and said that's him," Schell wrote. "I sat down my crack pipe, picked up a .357 revolver, jumped out of the car and started shooting him."

Adnan Pervez was gunned down in his own driveway. The intended target was the victim's older brother. (Supplied )

Schell emptied the revolver with six shots, then pulled another gun out of his waistband and continued firing.

Adnan Pervez suffered three gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at hospital.

Later that night, Schell saw a television news story about the shooting and realized he had killed the wrong man. The intended target was supposed to be the victim's older brother, Usman Pervez.

So was later sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit murder, while Schell faced a quarter-century behind bars.

Schell said it took about four years in prison following his conviction to "come to his senses."

'I take full responsibility for what I have done'

In his confession, Schell wrote, "the first thing I want everyone to understand is I take full responsibility for what I have done."

He said the life sentence is nothing compared to how much he punishes himself with guilt and regret every day for taking another man's life.

"I believe people can change just as I have changed," Schell wrote, noting he has transformed from a man with no education and "nothing to offer society" to an inmate who's completed his high school education and is on the way to getting a university degree in psychology.

"I was a drug addict," Schell admitted. "Now I hold a diploma from McMaster University licensing me as a drug therapist."

A probation officer told the jury that for the most part, Schell's 16 years behind bars has been relatively problem-free.

"Overall it's been good," Gurpal Bhuller testified. "A few incidents of concern, but in general he's been fairly compliant."

Schell's prison record shows he has taken a number of mandatory courses while behind bars to deal with his addiction issues and domestic violence.

"He has a positive attitude," Bhuller told the jury. "He's actively engaged... he gets along with everyone very well."

The hearing is scheduled to last five days.

About the Author

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston