New Brunswick

Convicted murderer granted escorted day trip to Moncton area

Chris Gill says the Parole Board of Canada allowed his sister's killer, Gregory Ashford out of Dorchester Penitentiary for a trip into the community on Jan. 13.

Brother of one victim says convicted murderer is a danger to the public

Chris Gill says the Parole Board of Canada allowed his sister's killer, Gregory Ashford, out of Dorchester Penitentiary for a trip into the community on Jan. 13.

Chris Gill's sister Faith Russell was strangled to death in Toronto in 1985 by Gregory Ashford. Ashford fled the province, making his way to Halifax where he killed another woman, 17 year-old Brenda Lee Garside. Ashford was arrested by police later in Winnipeg. He was convicted of both murders and is serving his sentence at the Dorchester Penitentiary.

The Parole Board of Canada will not confirm or deny that Ashford was granted an absence, but Gill of Hamilton, closely follows Ashford's time in jail. He has a letter from the Parole Board of Canada stating Ashford was granted a temporary absence from the prison for "personal development."

But Gill flew in from Hamilton to make sure he was at the parole board review meeting on Dec. 4, 2015 to present his victim impact statement. Gill says Ashford was granted an escorted temporary absence to go into the community to attend a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.

"Bottom line is, is he's murdered two people, how many chances does he need to murder a third," said Gill. 

What Gill says is worse, Ashford, a convicted murder of two, will be with people in a vulnerable position. He's concerned that other people at the meeting will unknowingly share personal stories with a murderer. 

"The fact that he was even allow to go to this meeting, a public meeting of the community without them knowing who he is?"

"It's concerning to me ... my sister's memory has to stand for something and this man around women puts them at risk.

"In the days of e-mail, you know there's lots of ways Greg can get to these people."

The Atlantic Canadian branch of Narcotics Anonymous said in a statement, "You are a member if you have a desire to stop using drugs. That requirement does not have other conditions." The group would not comment on Ashford's case specifically.

Gill has another letter from Correctional Services Canada saying the leave was scheduled to happen Jan. 13, but Gill hasn't received confirmation that it happened as planned.

Gill says his beloved older sister, whom he calls "Fay" was fiercely independent. At 38, Russell worked as a supervisor at the University of Toronto's dental school. Gill says Russell met Ashford at a Grey Cup Party in Toronto back in 1985. After a week of dating, Ashford strangled Russell to death in his apartment after she tried to put an end to the romance. 

"He gained her trust which was not easy with Fay.

"After she went to break it off with him, he ended up murdering her in his apartment and left."

Gill says he'll never forget the moment he found out, when two police officer knocked on door of the family home at 2 a.m.

"I went upstairs to get my parents, and my mom just leaned up and went, 'Fay.'

"It seemed like it took half an hour to walk down those stairs you know. We get downstairs to the front door and all I remember is the room spinning, because we all knew."

Gill's mother is now 87 years old. He says it still haunts them to this day.

"I remember her wails, and crying and I also watched her hair turn white. That's what scared me the most,  I remember about three or four inches of her roots turned white with horror.

"This is the part that people don't ever really get to see, right?"

Gill says back in 1986 there wasn't much support for victims, so his family struggled through.

Now, he finds the best way to make sense of his sister's murder is to make sure Gregory Ashford doesn't get the chance to kill again. 

But, Susan O'Neill, manager at the John Howard Society of New Brunswick said via e-mail that research indicates that society is best protected when an offender is gradually reintegrated into the community

She says at some point most offenders are released, and it's better for them to gradually adjust to life on the outside through supervised visits.

But Chris Gill says he's met Gregory Ashford face to face and doesn't believe he's sorry for what he did.

"I will do everything that I possible can, legally, to make sure the world knows this guy is out there because I'm not convinced...that he's ready to be out.

"I know it's only four hours, but where does it start and where does it end."