New Brunswick

Police officer's killer granted escorted absence from prison for meditation class

A New York man who murdered a New Brunswick police officer more than 30 years ago, has been granted a temporary escorted absence from prison to attend a meditation class in Moncton.

Anthony Romeo, now 56, murdered a constable who stopped him for speeding in 1987

Anthony Romeo is led out of court in Fredericton in 1987 after being arrested for the murder of Counst. Emmanuel Aucoin. (CBC News )

An American who murdered a New Brunswick police officer more than 30 years ago has been granted a temporary escorted absence from prison to attend a meditation class in Moncton.

Anthony Romeo was found guilty of killing Const. Emmanuel Aucoin on March 8, 1987, near Fredericton and sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 25 years.

A parole hearing was held at Dorchester Penitentiary on Thursday.

Romeo, now 56, was asking for an escorted temporary absence from the minimum security unit at Dorchester Penitentiary, where he's been held since 2016.

His mental health is more stable now, and he has been taking medication for some time, Corrections staff told Parole Board of Canada members Mary Crane and William Innes.

Const. Emmanuel Aucoin was 31 years old when he was shot and killed on Route 640, outside Fredericton. (CBC News )

Romeo has been deemed moderate "towards the low end" to reoffend, and low risk for the escorted temporary absence.

The board also heard that since Romeo was transferred to Dorchester, there have been no concerns.

Romeo was fleeing police in New York state, where he was a suspect in another murder, when Aucoin stopped him for speeding about 20 kilometres southwest of Fredericton.

Romeo, then 24, shot the 31-year-old New Brunswick Highway Patrol officer in the head. The provincial force was later disbanded.

Romeo told the board the escorted temporary absence "opens the door for me, I understand."

The scene after Aucoin was found dead. He was a member of the New Brunswick Highway Patrol, which no longer exists. (CBC News )

He talked at the hearing about his youth, which he described as normal until he got involved with drugs and alcohol. He said he knew he was losing control of his life before he killed Aucoin.

"I knew there was something going on," he said.

He received a medical diagnosis of schizophrenia in Montreal in 1989 and was put on medication.  

Admitting shooting constable

During his 1988 trial, he admitted to shooting Aucoin on a quiet stretch of Route 640 but argued he was not guilty by reason of insanity.

His guilty verdict was upheld following an appeal and retrial.

At the hearing on Thursday, Romeo told the board he was very sorry and said it was a terrible thing that happened.

Romeo has been at the minimum security unit at Dorchester Penitentiary since 2016. (Pierre Fournier/CBC News )

He told the board he has taken various courses, including landscaping and learning to detail cars, and is now cleaning the church at Dorchester.

He said he also learned about meditation and takes classes once a month, and also meditates on his own.

When asked what had been most beneficial for him in the last few years, he told the board it was a combination of meditation, work and regular contact with his family.

The hearing lasted for about 50 minutes. The board came back with a decision a short time later.

Romeo was granted an escorted temporary absence for a single class and must have a corrections officer with him at all times.

Future absences up to warden

He will be allowed four hours to attend the class in Moncton, along with one hour of travel time.

Innes said the decision does not mean the board has lost sight of the crime or the effect Aucoin's murder had on his family.

No date has been set for the temporary absence.

Any additional temporary absences for meditation class will be up to the prison warden. 

He was eligible for full parole on March 8, 2012, but that was denied at a hearing in May of 2012.

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