McDonald's killer permitted to have friendship with another paroled lifer
Darren Muise 'has been coddled by the justice system from Day 1,' says sister of murder victim
One of the killers in the infamous McDonald's murders in Cape Breton has been given permission to have a friendship with another federal parolee who is serving a life sentence.
Darren Muise, 43, who was sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder and robbery, was released from prison on full parole in 2012.
Muise currently lives in British Columbia with his common-law spouse.
Muise was 18 when he pleaded guilty to killing Neil Burroughs, an employee at the Sydney River fast food restaurant, in 1992. It was part of a botched robbery that left three people dead and one permanently disabled.
Burroughs was stabbed several times in the throat and neck and shot twice.
Jimmy Fagan, 27, and Donna Warren, 22, were also killed.
"The murders were clearly callous and horrific, and the judge noted the crimes were characterized by a rare level of brutality and indifference towards the victims," the board wrote in its Feb. 10 decision.
Until now, one of Muise's release conditions banned him from associating with people with a criminal record or who participate in criminal activities.
Documents obtained by CBC News show that the parole board made a change that condition earlier this month, allowing the convicted murderer to have contact with another male parolee who is serving a life sentence.
While Muise still cannot associate "with any person he knows or has reason to believe is involved in criminal activity," he can have a relationship with a former inmate only known by the initials K.B.
'Coddled by the justice system'
Cathy Burroughs, Neil Burrough's sister, said Tuesday she was not surprised that one of Muise's conditions has been relaxed "because he's been coddled by the justice system from Day 1."
The board noted that Muise has limited community support in the lower mainland but he does have a friend K.B. who is also on parole and serving a life sentence.
"You met KB while in prison in Quebec and KB has also demonstrated stability in the community during his parole," the board wrote. The documents do not give details about K.B.'s conviction. But a parole board spokesman for the Pacific region said Tuesday, it's likely for murder.
"Likely it's murder. It's very unusual to get a life sentence for anything other than murder," Patrick Storey said.
Whenever the parole board makes this kind of decision, Storey said, it's on the basis of a recommendation from Correctional Services of Canada.
"And any offender serving a life sentence, if he's going to have a significant relationship with anybody, his parole officer would make contact with that person and do what's called a community assessment in order to make sure that that person isn't going to be a negative influence on the offender."
Burroughs said she's "blown away" by the board's decision.
"He needs support to speak to somebody who's been in the same boat that he's been in? Believe me, he doesn't need support. He knows how to play the system very well," she said.
Burroughs vows that her family will continue to attend any future parole board hearings for the three men convicted in the horrendous crime.
Connection could help successful reintegration
The decision also notes Muise was granted permission from his case management team to meet with K.B. on two occasions before the team realized he was banned from "having contact with any person who has a criminal record."
While Muise's case management team acknowledged it is necessary to be able to monitor the man's associates, they believe the current wording "is too restrictive."
The parole board agreed.
It ruled "is not reasonable or necessary to protect society" to prevent Muise from having permission to associate with K.B. as he could assist in Muise's successful reintegration.
"In your CMT's view, while it is important that you avoid any person who has an active criminal record, they believe associating with a person who has a historical criminal record, such as KB, should be allowed as long as it is confirmed that the person is involved in pro-social activities," the board wrote.
Storey said if K.B.'s behaviour becomes questionable in the community, then Muise would no longer be allowed to associate with him.
"But as long as he's behaving appropriately in the community, he's involved in positive activities then he's not deemed to be a negative influence on Mr. Muise," he said.
Other release conditions
Other conditions of Muise's release remain. They include:
- That he never return to the Sydney area.
- Have no contact with the surviving victim or the victims' families.
- That he abstain from alcohol and drugs.
Muise began serving his prison sentence in 1993.
Freeman MacNeil and Derek Wood, the other men convicted in the case, are serving life sentences with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.