Nfld. & Labrador

Greg Parsons prepares to face man who murdered mother

A St. John's man who was framed for the brutal murder of his mother says he will do whatever it takes to keep his former friend and Catherine Carroll's real killer in jail.

Parole hearing slated for Friday; Brian Doyle asking for short-term release

Greg Parsons is a firefighter with the St. John's Regional Fire Department. (Melissa Pelley)

A St. John's man who was wrongfully convicted for the brutal murder of his mother says he will do whatever it takes to keep his former friend and Catherine Carroll's real killer in jail.

Greg Parsons, speaking publicly for the first time in years, is planning to attend a parole board hearing for Brian Doyle on Friday in British Columbia. 

"I just have to go up there and fight for Mom," Parsons said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Speaking about the man who ripped his life apart and took away his mother's will be no easy feat, Parsons said. 

He says he'll be attending the hearing with a weight on his shoulders and years of pain bottled inside.

"I'm going to tell them how he slashed my mother to death," said Parsons, who is a father and also a firefighter with the St. John's Regional Fire Department. 

"I have moved on in my life, but this is the thing that never goes away."

'Country club' prison

Parsons says he was infuriated after he was told Doyle, now 48, has been housed at the William Head Institution, a minimum-security prison with an ocean view in Victoria.

Victims of crime have criticized the prison setting, which some compare to a resort.

"It's despicable to think that man slashed my mother to death 53 times, got in the shower and watched her die, and then framed me for it.... I was sentenced to life in prison," Parsons said.

"If it wasn't for DNA I wouldn't be here. And now to find out that this man has been in this country club for most of his prison life."

Brian Doyle, seen in this photo from 2002, was convicted of a lesser charge of second-degree murder in the death of Catherine Carroll, 45. (CBC)

Had he learned sooner where Doyle was incarcerated, Parsons said, he would have advocated for him to be housed elsewhere. 

"He did so much damage, but it was all swept under the carpet by the Newfoundland justice system."

Tunnel vision, poor police work

The wrongful conviction of Parsons — and others — exposed deep problems within the Newfoundland and Labrador justice system.

On New Year's Eve 1990, Doyle went to Catherine Carroll's St. John's home, broke in through a basement window and stabbed and slashed her 53 times.

Parsons discovered his mother's bloodied body on her bathroom floor, and he was later tried — and found guilty — of her murder. 

Despite there being no physical evidence or eyewitness testimony connecting Parsons to the crime, he was found guilty of his mother's murder in her St. John's home. (CBC)

DNA evidence cleared his name in 1998. A so-called Mr. Big Sting in Ontario eventually led to Doyle's conviction. 

The provincial government apologized to Parsons in 1998 and later compensated him, four years after he was convicted.

In 2006, an inquiry led by Justice Antonio Lamer concluded that poor police work and tunnel vision led to the wrongful conviction.

"The investigation and prosecution of Gregory Parsons became a 'runaway train,' fuelled by tunnel vision and picking up many passengers along the way," Lamer wrote at the time. 

Should have been 1st-degree murder, Parsons says

Doyle is seeking short-term release conditions for medical reasons, family contact, parental responsibilities, rehabilitation, community service and administrative purposes.

He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 18 years (2021) for second-degree murder.

That's something that also angers Parsons. 

"When police caught him, he admitted to putting on big socks and big shoes to cover up his crime, he admitted that he had rape on his mind. All this is first-degree murder," he said.

"They had him hands down. They didn't want to go to first-degree because the Newfoundland justice system didn't want to go on trial with him ... and they would have."

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Ariana Kelland

Investigative reporter

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's. She is working as a member of CBC's Atlantic Investigative Unit.