Family of murdered Stephenville woman say killer has returned, wants to serve parole in community
Ann Lucas killed in 2003, Robert Hilroy Legge first granted parole in February
The family of a Stephenville woman who was murdered 16 years ago is slamming the parole board for releasing her killer, and for allowing him to both visit the community and apply to serve out the remainder of his parole there.
"It's disheartening. We're shocked, and sadly, we're no longer surprised. We've written so many letters trying to keep this person in jail," said Tracy McIsaac, Ann Lucas's niece.
McIsaac and her family don't even like to use male pronouns to describe Robert Hilroy Legge, the man who killed Lucas on Sept. 21, 2003, when she was 56 years old. Legge forced his way into her Stephenville apartment, despite an order to stay away from her that stemmed from an earlier assault, and bludgeoned her to death with a metal bar.
He was sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder, with parole ineligibility for 18 years from the date of his arrest. In his decision, Supreme Court Justice wrote that Legge "will likely remain dangerous until he is no longer breathing" and showed little remorse for his crime.
Sixteen years after the murder, and now in his early 80s, Legge was released to a halfway house on day parole in February for a six-month period, subject to numerous conditions such as avoiding alcohol and reporting any female relationships.
He was granted an additional six months' day parole in August, but was allowed to take leave periods away from the halfway house, with the Parole Board of Canada's decision stating his behaviour had been "positive and appropriate."
It also noted that Legge had a moderate risk to violently reoffend, and was at a high risk of domestic violence. Legge had spent years in and out of jail prior to killing Lucas, with the sentence for her death the fifth one he served in a federal institution.
'Audacity' to return
Lucas had two children, and McIsaac said Lucas's daughter was notified of Legge's parole and that he would be spending more than a week in early September on leave in Stephenville and Flat Bay, visiting relatives.
"The audacity to ask to come to Stephenville is just a slap in the face, absolutely," said McIsaac.
The Parole Board of Canada did not confirm Legge's parole circumstances, noting that was a matter for Correctional Services Canada.
If we can't see her face every day, we certainly don't want to see his.- Tracy McIsaac
McIsaac did not see Legge during his Stephenville stay, not that she wanted to: she and other family members kept quiet on social media, and she said Lucas's daughter changed her work schedule and kept close tabs on her children, with everyone afraid of reprisal.
"We shouldn't have to live in fear. We didn't do anything wrong. We're not the criminal, and we're the ones living in fear. The system is absolutely messed up," she said.
The family has also been notified that Legge has applied to transfer to Stephenville for the remainder of his day parole, said McIsaac, which she said could happen as early as Monday.
"If we can't see her face every day, we certainly don't want to see his," she said.
In its decision, the Parole Board of Canada said Legge had "made a decision to make change" and that leave privileges would give him the chance to "reconnect with family members."
Robbed of memories
Normally quick-spoken, McIsaac pauses as she thinks about the loss of her aunt, who she said was quick to laugh or joke, and "just a beautiful, kind person."
"She died when I was 19, so my memories stop there," said McIsaac, visibly emotional.
Lucas's death changed things in the family, said McIsaac, creating a void never to be filled.
"We weren't whole as a group. Part of your heart got taken away.… It's just not the same."
The Parole Board of Canada's decision noted it has several victim impact statements from Lucas's family on file, detailing their concerns about Legge being released prior to his parole eligibility date.
McIsaac said writing those letters has churned up the trauma, again and again.
"It's horrible. It brings it all back up," she said. "You relive that day, over and over again."
Lucas was Indigenous, and her daughter, Dionne Ward-Young, spoke at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in March 2018.
She used some of her time to criticize the parole board, saying she felt its assessment of inmates' behaviour was flawed, and that Legge had "hoodwinked the entire parole system" and after serving 12 years of his sentence was allowed 48 full day passes from prison.
"The parole board needs to be stronger. The sentences need to be adhered to," she told the inquiry.
Tired of writing letters — which McIsaac said has been the parole board's recommendation to the family, time and time again — the family has decided to speak, and act, out, hoping that if the parole board senses a threat to Legge from the community in Stephenville, he won't be allowed to transfer there.
People do not feel safe having him come back.- Janice Kennedy
"So that's the concern. His safety, not the society, or the community. We're worried about the criminal's safety, and I think there's something wrong with that," said McIsaac.
To that end, McIsaac and her family will be taking part in a protest march in Stephenville on Oct. 4, organized by the Bay St. George Status of Women Council and the Newfoundland Aboriginal Women's Network.
"We heard such an outcry in our community, of people who were scared and who were worried that he was going to be allowed back in our community after such a horrific act of violence," said Janice Kennedy, the non-profit organization's executive director.
"People do not feel safe having him come back."